INDIANAPOLIS – Areas of interest in the Indianapolis Colts’ Sunday meeting with the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium.
*Kickoff: 1 p.m.
*Line: Titans by 2½.
*History, Part I: We won’t dwell on the obvious, but must address it. The Colts have lost seven straight home games. That’s tied for the second-most in the Indy era. It they absorb No. 8 at the hands of the Titans, their skid ties the 1991 bunch for the longest since the relocation in 1984.
Hopefully, we’re not talking about that on Oct. 22 when the Cleveland Browns visit.
*History, Part II: Speaking of losing streaks, the Colts have lost four straight to the Titans in Indy and six of seven overall. It seems so meaningless that they lead the overall series, 35-21.
For the seriousness of the Titans bullying the Colts in their own backyard, consider only the Miami Dolphins have enjoyed more sustained success in Indy. They won five straight from 1998-2002, the first four as AFC East rivals. If you’re interested, the Dolphins had an eight-game streak from 1980-87 that spanned Indy and Baltimore.
The Colts once owned the AFC South, but last won the division in 2014. The Titans have captured two of the last three division titles.
*Richardson’s growth: We’re watching the growth of a franchise quarterback before our eyes — week by week. If you haven’t seen it — even in an admittedly short window — you have an axe to grind with Anthony Richardson.
The latest phase came last week against the Rams when Richardson limbered up his rocket right arm and added chunk passing plays to the offense. Richardson had five completions that picked up at least 20 yards and equaled the output of the first three games combined with three 30-plus yarders — a 35-yard touchdown to tight end Mo Alie-Cox, a 20-yarder to wideout Josh Downs and a 38-yarder to deep threat Alec Pierce.
“You create explosive plays offensively, your percentage of scoring goes way up,’’ Colts coach Shane Steichen said. “Shoot, when we started hitting those chunk plays last week, we started scoring points.’’
The Colts seemingly have kept Richardson on a short leash early in the passing game. There were few deep shots or connections, so he averaged 5.4 yards per attempt and 9.3 yards per completion versus Jacksonville and 5.6 and 9.3, respectively, at Houston before suffering a concussion.
Against the Rams, Richardson put up 9.6 yards per attempt and a nifty 18.2 yards per completion.
Yes, his completion percentage against Los Angeles (44%) was lacking. That should improve as the season unfolds.
A deep passing threat opens up the offense, and will get Alec Pierce more involved.
*Welcome back, JT: Everyone has kissed and made up. It’s amazing what a $42 million extension does for a player’s commitment to a franchise.
Jonathan Taylor will be active against the Titans and should see very limited action. It’s baby steps until he gets back in football shape.
“We have to ease him into it,’’ owner Jim Irsay said. “We think it will take three or four weeks before he really, really hits full stride.’’
That in mind, look for backup running back Zack Moss to do the heavy lifting against a Titans run defense that has been one of the NFL’s best over the first month of the season. Tennessee has allowed just 70 yards per game (No. 4) and 2.9 per attempt (No. 1). Two-time Pro Bowler Jeffery Simmons is a 305-pound load at tackle.
Richardson should test the Titans’ perimeter.
*Corner concerns: Starting cornerback Dallis Flowers suffered a season-ending Achilles injury against the Rams. That’s a major hit for coordinator Gus Bradley. Either rookie Jaylon Jones or Darrell Baker Jr. will be asked to step up. It’s worth noting Baker started the first two games, but has been a healthy scratch the last two with the return of rookie JuJu Brents.
Look for Brents and Kenny Moore II to start in the base. Once the Colts go to sub packages, it’s anyone’s guess how Bradley will hand out reps.
*Here’s Derrick: The Titans have yet to get their run game cranked up this season — No. 15 in the league at 111 yards per game — but it only seems like a matter of time. That’s because of the presence of Derrick Henry. He, too, is off to a relatively slow start — 285 yards and two touchdowns in four games, 3.9 per attempt.
But the Colts have been the cure to whatever’s ailed Henry. Over the past six seasons, his averages are a healthy 107 yards per game and 5.1 per attempt in 12 games. He has cracked triple digits in six of his last seven meetings with the Colts and seven times overall. The Titans are 6-1 when Henry goes for at least 100 against Indy.
That’s why the health of tackle DeForest Buckner is critical. He was on a pitch count against the Rams — 20 total snaps — because of groin and back injuries, and a bad Los Angeles run game churned for 164 yards. Buckner was limited on Thursday with the back issue but a full participant Friday.
Buckner and Grover Stewart form one of the NFL’s top tackle tandems. It’s just not the same without Buck.
*Titans defense: The Titans are in the middle of the pack in total defense (No. 12), but they’re No. 8 in scoring (17.5) and No. 7 on third-down conversions (32.7%). They’re in the top 10 in sacks with 13. Former Colt Denico Autry remains a force with a team-high 3.5 sacks to go along with 13 pressures. Simmons has 3 sacks along with 16 pressures, while Arden Key has 2.5 sacks and 20 pressures.
Here’s where we remind you the Colts will be without left tackle Bernhard Raimann for a second straight game (concussion). Rookie Blake Freeland is expected to start after struggling against the Rams.
On the positive side, center Ryan Kelly returns after missing two games with a concussion.
*And the winner is: Colts 20, Titans 17. This one’s more from a hopeful perspective. If the Colts are going to contend for anything this season, it’s got to start against the Titans. They’ve got to solve this can’t-win-at-home issue. If they can’t, we might be dwelling on draft positioning in December.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter/X at @mchappell51.