The AFC South race is heating up as we head towards the middle of the NFL season, and Week 7’s battle featuring the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans may go a long way in determining who wins the division. Tennessee defeated the Washington Commanders 21-17 on the road in Week 5 before entering their bye in Week 6. Indianapolis was in a tight contest last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and eventually prevailed by a final score of 34-27.
These two teams have already met once this season, which resulted in a 24-17 win for the Titans.
We’ll take a look at a few themes to watch in their rematch.
Indianapolis’ Backfield Health
There will be many fans keeping a very close eye on the injury report this week for the Colts. Star running back Jonathan Taylor has been out of the lineup the last two weeks with an ankle injury. His backup, Nyheim Hines, has also missed time due to a concussion he suffered in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos.
Indianapolis has had to dig deep into their backfield reserve depth in recent weeks, but has received solid production from Deon Jackson. The former Duke running back did not figure to be a part of the team’s plans this year, but has been effective on handoffs and catching passes out of the backfield. Philip Lindsay has also been serviceable in spot duty.
It’s possible that Indianapolis will have either or both of the Taylor/Hines available for the Titans game, but Jackson may have played well enough to receive some work if only one player is able to return.
Derrick Henry’s Revival
Given his substantial workload over the last two years, there were a lot of people predicting the demise of Derrick Henry this season. It stood to reason that his explosiveness would be diminished with years of wear and tear, also taking the foot injury he dealt with in 2021 into account.
Tennessee’s first couple games did not do much to dispel this narrative, as Henry was just alright in those contests. However, he looked like his old self in Tennessee’s first matchup against the Colts. In that contest, Henry rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown, carrying the ball at five yards per tote.
If Indianapolis is concerned about controlling the time of possession in this game(especially if Taylor can’t play), they may sell out to stop Henry by putting eight or nine men in the box.
Mo Alie-Cox’s Role
In the first Titans-Colts clash, a surprising development took place. After not factoring into the passing game much to that point, Indianapolis tight end Mo Alie-Cox erupted for six catches, 85 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee. This production likely caught the Titans off guard.
Alie-Cox has the physical tools to be a factor each week, but the Colts seem to target him sporadically. Considering the success he had in the first game, head coach Frank Reich might decide to increase his involvement again in the rematch.