NASHVILLE – It wasn’t all that long ago that the Indianapolis Colts owned the Tennessee Titans, not to mention the AFC South.
But when the Titans travel to Indianapolis on Sunday, they’ll try to make a historical statement of their own in this divisional rivalry.
The Titans will have a chance to beat the Colts for a fourth straight time, something that hasn’t been accomplished in franchise history.
Tennessee will also be seeking a fourth straight victory – and fifth in six meetings – at Indianapolis, a site at which the Titans once lost nine straight times from 2008 through 2016.
Who knows what kind of mental lift another win over Indianapolis might provide, especially considering the teams will meet for a second time this season Oct. 23 in Nashville?
“You have to beat the teams in your division, and you have to steal a couple on the road, which (this) is the next opportunity for that,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “We understand they’re a good football team. But we have to go on the road against a good football team that just beat a good football team (Kansas City), and start doing some things better and continue to do the things that looked pretty positive yesterday.”
A look at the current AFC South standings:
|Team||W||L||T||Points||Pts. Allowed||vs. Div.|
The Colts ruled the AFC South during a long stretch beginning in the early 2000’s, winning nine of 12 division titles from 2003-2014.
The Titans-Colts rivalry became brutally one-sided during that span, as Indianapolis – thanks in part to quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck – went 16-1 against Tennessee from Dec. 28, 2008, to Nov. 20, 2016.
But the worm since has turned.
The Titans have won six of the last 10, including the last three by scores of 45-26 in 2020, and 34-31 (OT) and 25-16 in 2021. All three of those victories helped the Titans claim back-to-back AFC South titles.
“Division games count a little more,” wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, an Indiana University alum, said. “There’s a little more weight to them because obviously, the winner of the division goes to the playoffs, so especially against the Colts, those games are always tough, tight games.
“I feel like both teams kind of have a similar culture. Built around the same things – playing hard, playing with effort, finishing. I feel like that’s kind of what creates a little bit of rivalry and leads to these games being knockdown, drag-out games.”
Both the Titans (1-2) and Colts (1-1-1) earned their first victories of the season last Sunday, with Tennessee edging the Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis upsetting the Chiefs at home.
Both teams will also be trying to keep pace with surprising Jacksonville (2-1), which thumped the Los Angeles Chargers on the road last Sunday.
“We are excited about winning – it is hard to win in this league,” Vrabel said. “I never want to take anything away from winning. We just have to continue to improve and fix the things that we feel like are fixable, find out who's available, who we're going to have, and start to build a gameplan and a roster to travel to Indianapolis for a huge division game on the road.”