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Indianapolis Colts look to rebound vs. Tennessee Titans

The Colts are losing confidence in their offensive line. They said as much last week with their play-calling in the first quarter of Sunday's embarrassing loss to the St. Louis Rams.

Down 7-0 late in the first quarter, the Colts faced a third-and-10 from their own 8-yard line. They handed the ball to fullback Stanley Havili. That's as close to giving up as you'll see in the first quarter of an NFL game.

The Colts' 38-8 loss has inspired a lot of soul searching in Indianapolis, not to mention some "sky is falling" analysis. It's rare that one game changes how a team is viewed this much. The Rams' defensive line absolutely manhandled the Colts early in the game. Even when Andrew Luck got some protection, he missed a lot of throws. The Colts had 74 yards at halftime. It was the rare NFL game that looked like Florida facing an out of conference cream puff. For one day, the Colts were Bethune-Cookman.

Indianapolis doesn't have to give back its six wins, including wildly impressive victories over Seattle, San Francisco and Denver. The larger question heading into Thursday Night Football's matchup in Tennessee: Was Sunday's loss to St. Louis just a temporary setback for a young, overachieving team? Or did it point out roster holes that are too large to be a true Super Bowl contender?

Here's what we'll be watching for Thursday night in Tennessee:

  1. The Titans could climb back into the AFC South race if they win Thursday night. (After the Colts' performance against St. Louis, we're not ruling anything out.) One positive for Tennessee: Ryan Fitzpatrick played well in relief of Jake Locker last week.

Fitzpatrick mostly struggled in two starts for Tennessee this season, but those games came against Kansas City and Seattle. Everyone struggles against them. Against Jacksonville, Fitzpatrick made some nice throws against the blitz. He put up 27 points in a little more than a half of action.

  1. If nothing else, Fitzpatrick never has been afraid to make tough throws. He is a gunslinger without huge weaponry. Rookie wide receiver Justin Hunter received more snaps last week, and caught a beautiful deep pass from Fitzpatrick. Kendall Wright is also one of the quickest slot receivers in the league, and is a lot of fun to watch. The Titans should be aggressive throwing the ball.
  1. Colts cornerback Vontae Davis had one of the best games any cornerback has had all season against Denver but has struggled since. He didn't look right last week while chasing Tavon Austin around the field.
  1. The Colts don't have a particularly impressive rush defense. That's good news for the Titans, who desperately want to run the ball but don't have the horses to pull it off. Chris Johnson can run, but he doesn't make any defenders miss or break tackles. No. 10 overall draft pick Chance Warmack has been a solid run blocker, but not so great protecting the passer.

Warmack had a holding penalty last week that resulted in a safety during Tennessee's two-point loss.

  1. Luck needs some teammates -- any offensive teammates -- to step up. The offensive line could struggle against Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, one of Chris Wesseling's favorite players this season. Darrius Heyward-Bey drops a few passes a week, and the Colts' running game has been sad to watch. Donald Brown has been more effective than Trent Richardson, and should split the workload. It's telling Brown is getting snaps even on "running downs" in the red zone.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" previewed "Thursday Night Football" and "stuck a fork" in the Bills' 2013 chances.

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