NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans have no margin for error or reason for overconfidence trying to start their first winning streak of the season with the calendar flipping to December.
“I don’t think we should take anything for granted, just as a general rule,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
The NFL did the Titans no favor, backloading their schedule with five of the final seven games at home.
The Titans (4-7) have yet to win away from Nashville, and Sunday will be their first chance to play back-to-back games at home this season, hosting AFC South rival Indianapolis (6-5).
“It’s good not having to get on the flight," said Titans two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, who already has called for fans to show up loud Sunday. "I’m happy to be back at home and hopefully we bring a lot of energy, a lot from our fans for this game.”
Not only do the Titans want consecutive wins, this is a divisional rematch that means a lot to a defense that gave up a career day to Zack Moss on Oct. 5, losing 23-16 in Indianapolis. That snapped the Titans' five-game winning streak against their divisional nemesis.
Now Tennessee gets the Colts in Nissan Stadium where the Titans are undefeated, their most recent game a 17-10 win over Carolina.
"I don’t know the rhyme or reason for it, but they’re playing good at home,” first-year Colts coach Shane Steichen said.
Indianapolis has won three straight, and a 27-20 win over Tampa Bay put the Colts into playoff contention in the AFC's seventh spot. This starts a two-game road swing for the Colts with quarterback Gardner Minshew, who is 3-1 on the road this season.
Minshew has not won four straight as a starter in his five NFL seasons. This time, the Titans have a full week to prepare to defend Minshew, who came off the bench when rookie Anthony Richardson was hurt in the Colts' win in October.
Now Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is sidelined by an injured thumb, but Vrabel said Minshew has a good grasp of the offense.
“He’s done a good job for them,” Vrabel said.
The Colts weren’t entirely sure how Moss would fit after a midseason trade with Buffalo last year. With Taylor injured at the end of last season, Moss ran for 334 yards and one TD in the final four games.
He's been even better this season as the Titans found out in October. Moss gashed them for a career game with 165 yards rushing, another 30 receiving and two TDs. One guy not surprised is new Colts offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who wrote up Moss coming out of Utah in draft evaluations.
“He was always a guy I kept an eye on — how his career was going, how he was playing and the opportunities he was getting," Cooter said. "Zack has shown this year that he can do a lot of different things. He’s somebody we depend on.”
Prior to April’s NFL draft, most analysts expected Colts general manager Chris Ballard to choose either Richardson or Will Levis with the fourth overall pick.
Ballard wasted little time taking Richardson, while Levis fell out of the first round before being selected at No. 33 by Tennessee.
The previous time these teams met, Richardson started his fourth and final game before a season-ending shoulder injury while Levis watched. On Sunday, Levis will make his sixth straight start and Steichen has a pretty good sense of what to expect.
“Huge arm, can make all the throws, very tough,” Steichen said of Levis. “He’s a smart football player. It looks like he’s going to have a good career.”
In the first matchup, the Colts limited two-time league rushing champ Derrick Henry, to just 43 yards on 13 carries.
This time, there’s a big hole in the Colts defensive line. Indy will be without 314-pound run-stuffing tackle Grover Stewart serving the final game of a six-game suspension for violating the league policy on performance-enhancers.
But Henry is much better in his career the second time around against divisional rivals. The running back averages 84.1 yards in the first games of a season inside the AFC South and 119.5 in the second game. Credit watching tape of missed holes along with added motivation.
“Definitely, 43 yards makes me want to cringe," Henry said. “Yeah I have to be better. I have to play better, and that's going to be my main focus.”
AP Sports Writer Michael Marot contributed to this report.