Key matchups to watch in Week 8


The Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts will meet in a pivotal game on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, as the Titans have a chance to grab total control over the AFC South.

With a win, the Titans would be three games better than the Colts, and would own the head-to-head tie-breaker after Tennessee topped Indianapolis in Week 3, 25-16.

For the Colts, a win would put them right back in the thick of things. They would be one game behind record-wise, and would own the same head-to-head and divisional records as the Titans.

Both teams come into this game red-hot. The Titans have won their last three, including victories against the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs in back-to-back weeks, while the Colts have won three of their last four.

If Tennessee wants to win and grab a stranglehold on the division this Sunday, they’ll have to win all or the majority of the following matchups.

Titans’ pass-rush vs. Colts’ offensive line

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If Braden Smith plays, the Colts will have their offensive line fully healthy for the first time this season, which comes at a perfect time in what is the biggest game of both of these teams’ seasons thus far.

Tennessee’s pass-rush has been much improved in 2021, and it was a big reason why the Titans were able to keep Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes from wrecking them these last two weeks.

The Titans benefitted from facing a hobbled Carson Wentz last time around, but they won’t have that luxury this week now that the Colts signal-caller is fully healthy and more mobile.

Tennessee must get the better of Indianapolis’ offensive line and get home on Wentz or else he’ll be able to extend plays and expose the Titans’ banged-up secondary. You won’t see as many “give-up” plays from Wentz, that’s for sure.

Titans’ front-seven vs. Jonathan Taylor

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Taylor enters this game as one of the hottest running backs in the NFL, and he had some success against the Titans in Week 3 before the Colts mysteriously abandoned the run despite it being a close game.

Just like the Titans, the Colts want to lead with their run game, so Tennessee’s front-seven has to make sure it doesn’t let Taylor rip off chunks of yardage, which has become commonplace for him lately.

The Titans must force the Colts to win this game through the air. Indy will hope Taylor can eat, leading to the Titans bringing extra help in the box and leaving their suspect secondary exposed.

Colts’ front-seven vs. RB Derrick Henry

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

The King has been dominant in his last four meetings with the Colts, burning the Titans’ division rival for at least 100 yards in each.

Getting Henry going won’t just move the chains, it’ll also allow the Titans to control the clock and force the Colts to bring extra help in the box, which will make life easier for Ryan Tannehill and Co.

If the Colts can limit Henry without bringing extra help, the Titans will have a tougher time moving the ball through the air.

Titans’ CBs vs. WRs Michael Pittman Jr., T.Y. Hilton

Syndication: The Tennessean

The Titans will once again be without their top cornerback in Kristian Fulton. Meanwhile, the Colts’ receiving corps. is expected to have Hilton back after he didn’t suit up in Week 3.

With both Colts receivers being able to line up all over the field, Janoris Jenkins, Greg Mabin, Elijah Molden and Chris Jackson will be tasked with stopping Pittman Jr. and Hilton

Half the battle will be the Titans’ pass-rush putting pressure and finishing on Wentz, but with the Colts’ offensive line at full strength, and with Wentz having more mobility, the secondary won’t be able to rely on that solely.

Coverage has to be as good as we saw it in Week 7 or else it’ll be a long day for this group.

Colts’ CBs vs. A.J. Brown

AP Photo/John Amis

We keep mentioning how Wentz was hobbled and Hilton didn’t play in Week 3, but the Colts also got a break with Brown leaving after eight snaps. They won’t be as fortunate this week, though.

With Julio Jones ruled out, the Titans will be leaning heavily on Brown, who has had two good games in a row after a lackluster start to the season. However, the Colts have historically been good against Brown.

The Colts have to make sure they limit the Ole Miss product once again and force someone else in Tennessee’s unheralded receiving corps. to step up. If Brown does get going, Indy has to stop him from ripping off yards after the catch, something he has proven to have a knack for during his young career.

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