The Tennessee Titans' playoff hopes took a hit after a frustrating loss last week, but they've received some good news regarding their quarterback position.
With Matt Hasselbeck expected to be able to start, the Titans look to bounce back while sending the Indianapolis Colts to their first 0-14 record in franchise history Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Tennessee (7-6) fell one game behind Denver and New York in the AFC wild-card race after losing 22-17 to New Orleans last week. Hasselbeck strained his calf early in the second quarter, giving rookie Jake Locker extended action for only the second time in his career.
Appearing poised, Locker went 13 for 29 for 282 yards and a touchdown while adding a 6-yard TD run in the third quarter.
He later hit Nate Washington on a 40-yard touchdown pass in the fourth, though he was sacked inside the Saints' 10-yard line on the final play of the game.
"I am not going to second guess anything he did," coach Mike Munchak said.
Munchak noted his team likely will need to win its final three games to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and Tennessee is preparing for its next test with Hasselbeck's calf improving.
Hasselbeck had an MRI on Monday and watched practice Wednesday, but he did more than he expected when he returned for Thursday's practice.
"If he's not feeling he can do things, he'll be honest with us," Munchak said Thursday. "He knows we want to win. He wants to start, and we want him to start. If for some reason he's not at his best, we'll rethink the position. Right now we're all thinking positively that he's going to be the starter."
Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell said his team plans to be ready no matter who is under center for the Titans.
"Hasselbeck has been around a long time now. He is a tough guy and we are anticipating that he will be back, but if not then we will certainly be ready for Locker as well," Caldwell said.
Running back Chris Johnson said he'll be comfortable playing with Locker if it comes to that.
"He's pretty good. Looks like he's been playing the whole year or whatever. Not got any rookie jitters or nervous," Johnson said.
Whatever the reason for Johnson's inconsistency this season, he'll likely need to pick up his game this week. He ran for 23 yards on 11 carries versus New Orleans after combining for 343 yards and two touchdowns the previous two weeks.
Indianapolis held Johnson to 34 yards on 14 carries in the first meeting Oct. 30, but lost - as has been the result all season - 27-10.
The Colts have never dropped their first 14 games in their 58-year existence and are looking to avoid that dubious mark with a pair of quarterbacks who have yet to win a start in the NFL.
Dan Orlovsky will make his third straight start after Curtis Painter threw six touchdowns and nine interceptions in nine games. Orlovsky went 17 for 37 for 136 yards and a touchdown in a 24-10 loss to Baltimore last Sunday.
Indianapolis, though, doesn't plan to start hoping for the return of Peyton Manning nor give up on the season despite its struggles.
"Obviously, every time you go out, you want to win," center Jeff Saturday said. "It's something to build on for the future, and we want to show some of the young guys what it's like to win and show guys this is what we're all about."
Indianapolis ranks 31st in the league in total offense, averaging 283.4 yards. It was held to 50 rushing yards versus Baltimore - the Colts' lowest total since gaining 40 in a 38-35 overtime loss to Dallas on Dec. 5, 2010.
Indianapolis ran for a season-high 158 yards versus Tennessee in the first meeting, though 79 came on scrambles by Painter.
Javon Ringer led the Titans with 60 yards rushing in that contest, but he's been ruled out for this matchup. Johnson has averaged 68.0 yards rushing in six career games against the Colts.
Tennessee has lost seven of the last eight meetings in Indianapolis.
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- Sports & Recreation/American Football
- Matt Hasselbeck
- Indianapolis Colts
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