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4)Must-win. This isn't about putting pressure on the Colts, but this isn't only a must-win game, it's a should-win game. It's unusual in the NFL for a team with playoff aspirations to beat a team that's out of the post-season. It's obviously not unprecedented. The Redskins, after all, beat Jacksonville last week, and the Minnesota Vikings beat the contending Philadelphia Eagles Tuesday. But in the NFL, late-season games most often go to to the team with the most motivation, and without question, that's the Colts Sunday. Upsets do happen, but considering the Colts' veteran leadership and their ability to play consistently in difficult situations, it's hard to imagine them not playing well Sunday.
3)Going for it. There understandably has been a ton of pre-game speculation about just how the Titans will approach the game. Colts followers and players remember vividly a 2004 game when the Colts were pushing for an AFC South title and the Titans were fading from contention. With Titans quarterback Steve McNair, left tackle Brad Hopkins and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth out, Titans coach Jeff Fisher called three onside kicks and went for it on fourth down four times. Two of the onside kicks worked and Tennessee stayed close early before one of the Colts' best offensive teams of the last decade pulled away for a 51-24 victory. Hard to say how Fisher will approach this game, but it's safe to expect new, young players playing and it would be surprising if Fisher didn't pull some surprises, particularly on offense.
2)A word on the opponent . . . We don't usually spend too much time on the Colts' opponent in Magnificent Seven, but wanted to mention Fisher. There is speculation that he may be coaching his last game for the Titans, and if so, it would end a remarkable tenure for Fisher in Tennessee. He took over as interim coach in 1994 and became the permanent head coach of the Houston Oilers the following season. He coached the team through a move to Tennessee, and during a difficult season when the team was located in Memphis before coaching the Titans to the Super Bowl in 1999. While many Tennessee fans are calling for Fisher to be out after this season, he long has gotten the most out of his teams – and he is the lone coach from the original AFC South coaching foursome of Tom Coughlin (Jacksonville), Tony Dungy (Indianapolis), Fisher (Tennessee) and Dom Capers (Houston) still coaching in the division. If this is indeed Fisher's last game with the Titans, he likely will get another job quickly – and deservedly so. And you won't likely see a tenure like the one he had in Tennessee very often around the NFL. Coaches rarely last 16 seasons in one place, particularly without a Super Bowl title, but Fisher brought stability, competitiveness and class to the organization and if the Titans do part ways with Fisher, they'll be fortunate to find a replacement as worthy.
1)Perspective. Didn't get a chance to do Perspective, Please, this week, but let's give this week's game a quick dose. What the Colts can accomplish by winning an AFC South title Sunday would be remarkable on a few fronts. First off, while this season didn't feature 12 victories as the last seven did, making the playoffs with the way injuries depleted the roster would be a major accomplishment. It wouldn't be unprecedented. Teams fight through injuries every season, but injuries also bring teams down, and it's more common for teams to limp to the finish as was the case in San Diego, Houston and Tennessee this season than to gut through and get to the post-season. The Colts had every opportunity and excuse to quit, and credit must be given that they didn't. Also, don't overlook the significance of a ninth consecutive playoff appearance. The teams in 2002, 2008 and 2010 easily could have found a way to miss the playoffs. The 2002 and 2008 teams didn't, and the 2010 team has a very real chance to cap a remarkable late-season run. Year-to-year long-term consistency is a difficult thing in the NFL. The salary-cap system, as well as the draft, is step up to prevent it. Tying that record would be an accomplishment the franchise would remember for a long, long time and would be a worthy and significant milestone for a team that values consistency.