INDIANAPOLIS -- The opponent doesn’t have the same hype or record as teams like Denver, San Francisco or Seattle. But the pressure to win is right there for the Indianapolis Colts.
Just ask owner Jim Irsay if you need further proof.
It was only a few weeks ago that it looked like the Colts were going to be able to cruise the AFC South title. Two blowout losses in the past three games has made things a little more interesting.
It’s actually caused some uneasiness for the Colts.
Things can be righted some with a victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Win and the Colts will have a three-game lead in the division with four games to go. Lose and palms become increasingly sweaty because the division race gets even tighter.
“That's the way we approached it from a preparation standpoint," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We have a chance to seal the division, put a nail in the coffin. However you want to put it. We’ve got to play, just from a confidence standpoint. Someone is going to get hot in the league. Somebody is going to get hot going down the stretch. Win this football game and be 8-4 with four games to go. We need to play well in all three phases. This game is huge.”
Quarterback Andrew Luck has yet to lose back-to-back games as a Colt. The Colts are 34-14 in December games since 2002, which is the second-highest winning percentage in the NFL.
Those numbers won’t mean anything if the vulnerable Colts can’t shore up a number of areas.
• The Colts have been outscored 93-12 in the first half of their last four games.
• Indianapolis' running backs rushed for only 49 yards against the Arizona Cardinals.
• Receiver T.Y. Hilton has 10 catches for 82 yards in the past two games after going for 14 catches, 251 yards and three touchdowns in the two games prior to that.
• The defense has given up at least 340 total yards, including two games of at least 410 yards, in the past four games.
• The Colts are 24-of-78 on third down in their past six games.
"We'll turn every stone and exhaust all resources, but at the end of the day, no matter what you do, what wrinkles you throw in there, you’ve got to execute and you’ve got to do it better. You’ve got to play better. You've got to coach better," Pagano said.
"We're not going to beat people with gimmicks and this, that and the other. You beat people with sound football -- tough, hard-nosed, physical, disciplined. Play with great fundamentals, great technique, great effort, all those things. I know our guys are tough and physical and they’re going to play with great effort, just got to play more consistent for 60 minutes.”
The Titans, who are 0-3 in divisional games, have just as much on the line as the Colts. Tennessee wants to close the gap on the Colts in the division and its currently the sixth seed in the AFC. A Titans' victory moves them to within a game of teh Colts in the division.
Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown for 806 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 71.8 percent of his attempts in the past three games.
"This a divisional game," Colts defensive lineman Cory Redding said. "Again, this is a tough team that we know and they know us. This is going to be a fight. We all know the fastest way to get into the playoffs is to control your division. We have that two-game lead and we got to maintain that lead. We have to do all that we can to fight and scrap for the place that we’re in. We worked our butts off to get where we’re at and we got to stay there."