Titans' climb up AFC South rests on ending skid to Colts
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Trying to climb to respectability, the Tennessee Titans are at a crucial moment with two games in five days - both in the AFC South.
First, they must end a woeful skid Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, the division rival that has tormented them the most in recent years before they can even worry about Jacksonville in a primetime game on Oct. 27.
''I think guys know what's at hand, and we know the opportunity that we have coming into the next two games,'' Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey said.
''We know the urgency that this organization expects out of us, and the mindset that we need going into the game to make sure we do take advantage of the opportunity.''
This is only the second time the Titans (3-3) have been at .500 this late in a season since 2011, churning through two coaches, two general managers and a handful of quarterbacks in that span.
They got to this point by holding off the winless Browns 28-26 last week and are second in the division.
The struggling Colts (2-4) are stuck in the AFC South cellar, having blown a 14-point lead late in regulation of a 26-23 overtime loss in Houston.
Against the Titans, Indianapolis has won nine straight and 14 of the past 15.
Andrew Luck has never lost to Tennessee, rallying the Colts to their first win, 35-33, last season after an 0-3 start. Luck insists past success will not lead to overconfidence.
''There's absolutely zero bearing on what happened the previous year, and even within a season,'' Luck said. ''What happened last week, the first time we played the opponent, has zero bearing on the next one.''
Here are some things to watch from the Colts and Titans:
RECORD CHASE: At age 43, the NFL's oldest player is kicking at an uncanny rate. Adam Vinatieri is one of only two players in league history to make more than 40 consecutive field goals and can break Mike Vanderjagt's NFL record (42) with two more field goals at Tennessee, a team he has been almost flawless against. Since 2008, Vinatieri is 32 of 34 on field goals against the Titans.
RARE COMPANY: Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota ranks second only to Detroit's Matthew Stafford (119.3) for passer rating inside an opponent's 20-yard line since the start of the 2015 season with a 113.8 rating and 22 touchdowns with no interceptions. Luck ranks fourth (109.3) with 18 TD passes and one interception. Mariota also has thrown at least three TD passes in six of his first 18 starts, the fifth quarterback in NFL history to do that. He can join Kurt Warner, Dan Marino and Daunte Culpepper as the only quarterbacks to do that in their first 19 games with three more TDs on Sunday.
RECEIVER TROUBLE: Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton has continued playing despite being hobbled by a knee. His teammates haven't been as fortunate. No. 2 receiver Donte Moncrief hasn't played since Week 2 because of a fractured shoulder blade. No. 3 receiver Phillip Dorsett couldn't finish last week's game because of a hamstring injury and No. 4 receiver Quan Bray (ankle) went on injured reserve Tuesday. Starting tight end Dwayne Allen (ankle) also could miss this week's game. The injuries forced Indy to make a flurry of roster moves Tuesday.
TRIPLE THREAT: DeMarco Murray ranks second in the NFL with 698 yards from scrimmage, helping the Titans rank third in the league in averaging 146.7 yards rushing per game. Mariota has run for at least 60 yards in each of his past two games, and rookie Derrick Henry is averaging 4.4 yards per carry off the bench.
''It's triple-option football, if you will,'' Colts coach Chuck Pagano said.
SACK TIME: The Titans have had six sacks in consecutive games for the first time since 2010. Luck has been sacked a league-high 23 times, and linebacker Brian Orakpo already has matched his sack total for all of last season with seven. If Orakpo adds another Sunday, he would be the first Tennessee player with a sack in six straight games since Jevon Kearse in 2003.
AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
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