Three starters out, maybe two more

Dwayne Allen, Gosder Cherilus and Bjoern Werner have been ruled out. T.Y. Hilton and Jerrell Freeman are questionable.

For starters, the Indianapolis Colts will be without tight end Dwayne Allen, offensive right tackle Gosder Cherilus and outside linebacker Bjoern Werner on Sunday at the Tennessee Titans.

But the starters missing in action could also include wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, who are listed as questionable.

The Colts (10-5) could afford to rest guys because it will be near impossible for them to move up from the AFC’s No. 4 seed for the playoffs — they need a win and the Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game to end in a tie. Coach Chuck Pagano has said the Titans game is still important, he will play to win, although the team would be cautious with injured players.

That means Cherilus (groin) will miss his second consecutive game. Allen will also sit after exiting in the first half of Sunday’s 42-7 loss at Dallas with a knee injury. And Werner won’t play due to a shoulder injury. All three did not practice this week.

Hilton, the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, missed the Cowboys game with a sore left hamstring but returned to practice. He was limited each day, which could mean the Colts won’t take any chances with him.

Freeman suffered a hamstring injury at Dallas and his limited participation in Friday’s practice was his first work with the team all week. Given that inactivity, it’s more than likely he will be sidelined, too.

Backup guard-tackle Joe Reitz is also listed as questionable with an ankle injury suffered at Cleveland on Dec. 7.

Should the Colts start with a two tight-end offense, as was the case in the last game, Allen’s absence means Coby Fleener and Jack Doyle will get the snaps. Rookie wide receiver Donte Moncrief started in place of Hilton and Xavier Nixon for Cherilus.

While Moncrief started, veteran receiver Hakeem Nicks came off the bench and had the best game on an awful day with a team-high nine catches for 72 yards. They were also his season highs with the Colts, four more receptions and 22 more yards than in any other game.

Werner’s inactivity means either rookie Jonathan Newsome, veteran Shaun Phillips for special-teams standout Andy Studebaker will be considered for time, perhaps all three. Newsroom is second on the team with 4.5 sacks.

If Freeman is a no go, the Colts could turn to Josh McNary, who started three games at that position early in the season, or Studebaker, who has started once this season, too.

Defensive end Cory Redding, offensive guard Hugh Thornton, and outside linebacker Erik Walden, who are all dealing with knee issues, have been listed as probable. Walden leads the team with six sacks.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.

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