by Ian S. Palmer
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The NFL’s regular season wraps up this Sunday, January 3 and there are still a few things to be decided, such as the top spot in the AFC South Division. The Indianapolis Colts still have a shot at it as they enter the final weekend in second place with their record of 7-8. They’re a game back of the 8-7 Houston Texans who will be taking on Jacksonville in their season finale. The Colts will be hosting the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Field on Sunday after downing the Miami Dolphins 18-12 last weekend. The Titans occupy last place in the division with a 3-12 record following their 34-6 defeat at the hands of Houston on Sunday.
It looks like Tennessee will be starting Zach Mettenberger at quarterback instead of rookie Marcus Mariota and the Colts may have to go with Charlie Whitehurst since both Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck are suffering from injuries. However, they could be healthy enough to play by the time Sunday rolls around. The Titans are trying to end the season on a winning note after losing their past three contests. Mettenberger played against the Texans instead of Mariota and finished the outing by passing for a touchdown and 234 yards along with a pick off. The Titans offered him pretty good protection as he was sacked just once. However, he went just 27 for 51 in the passing department.
Tennessee will be looking to avenger their heartbreaking 35-33 defeat to the Colts earlier this season in week three. However, they’ll need to protect their quarterback just like they did against Houston as they’ve been sacked 50 times this season, which ranks as the second-most in the league. The Titans’ backfield was basically non-existent against Houston with just 30 yards on the ground. They’ll be up a Colts’ run defense that ranks 25th by conceding 123.8 yards against on the ground each week.
The Colts need a win on Sunday to guarantee they don’t finish the season with a losing record. However, they won’t have a winning mark either since the best they can do is finish .500 at 8-8. If they end up tied with the Texans we could see several tiebreaking processes used to determine the division winner with some of them depending on results from other games. Luck played the first time these two teams met this season and threw for 260 yards along with a pair of touchdown passes and an interception. He’s been out of action since week eight though due to injuries.
Whitehurst subbed for Hasselbeck against the Dolphins and went nine for 14 for 78 yards in the air. The Colts are the third-worst in the NFL when it comes to running the ball this season with an average of 87.4 yards per game. However, Frank Gore played well against the Titans earlier in the campaign with 14 carries for 86 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also scored two touchdowns against the Dolphins last week. The Colts recorded six sacks against Miami and enter this game at 7-3 against the spread in their last 10 encounters with Tennessee at home and are 9-1 straight up during that stretch.