INDIANAPOLIS — All the pain the Indianapolis Colts have been feeling since Sunday's embarrassing 38-8 loss to the St. Louis Rams? The Tennessee Titans share it.
If misery truly does love company, Thursday night's nationally televised showdown in Nashville, Tenn., is going to be an affection aficionado's dream.
The Titans (4-5) are coming off a 29-27 loss against the Jacksonville Jaguars that was cringe-inducing in its own right — because it handed the last-place team its first victory of the season. But Tennessee sees its upcoming date with the Colts (6-3) at LP Field as a shot at redemption.
A win pulls the Titans within one game of the AFC South lead and sets up a juicy rematch Dec. 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"This is a playoff game for us," Tennessee head coach Mike Munchak said during a conference call Wednesday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "We have to win this football game, and we play (Indianapolis) twice in three weeks. So I think we're going to find out real fast what our situation is, when you're playing the top team in your division twice. So, yeah, we dug a hole. No doubt about it. But there's still a way out, and that's how we look at it."
That way would become significantly more clear if the Titans can figure out how to get running back Chris Johnson back on track.
The sixth-year veteran had something of a bounce-back season in 2012, rushing for 1,243 yards and averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Both numbers were the third-highest of his career and represented significant improvement from a 2011 season that finished with 1,047 yards and a 4.0 average.
This season, Johnson's roller coaster ride has experienced more valleys than peaks. Through nine games, he's averaging a career-low 3.6 yards per carry and has amassed just 546 yards and two touchdowns.