NASHVILLE — Marcus Mariota is not expected to play against the Indianapolis Colts on "Sunday Night Football" (7:20 p.m. CT, NBC) in a win-and-you're-in scenario at Nissan Stadium, according to ESPN.
The Titans quarterback suffered a stinger last week against the Redskins, and was officially labeled questionable on the final injury report. Backup Blaine Gabbert, who replaced Mariota last week and led the game-winning drive against Washington, is expected to start.
The winner of Sunday's Titans-Colts game will advance to the playoffs; the loser will be eliminated.
Mariota appeared to be trending in the right direction late in the week. After missing Wednesday's practice for a day of treatment and rest, he was a limited participant at practice on both Thursday and Friday and was listed with neck and foot injuries. But according to the ESPN report, "an independent spine specialist has warned the Titans that further damage would put Mariota's ability to throw the football at significant risk beyond this weekend."
“Of course I’m optimistic,” Mariota said on Wednesday about his chances of playing. “I mean this is what it’s about. You’re playing for everything. So I’m doing everything I can, day and night, just trying to make sure that I can be ready.”
Mariota has endured nerve injuries twice before this season. In Week 1 at Miami, he suffered an elbow injury that caused damage to his ulnar nerve, forcing him to miss Week 2 and come off the bench in Week 3. In Week 11 at Indianapolis, Mariota also dealt with a stinger that caused him to leave early, though he was back under center by Week 12.
If Gabbert does in fact get the nod, it would mark his third start of the season. The Titans signed a third quarterback, Austin Davis, early in the week as insurance.
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