Next Level nuggets for you to chew on

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
5:07
PM ET
Some items I found interesting out of the weekly ESPN Stats and Info Next Level packet that could be things to keep an eye on Sunday:

Jaguars’ pass protection: Defenses have sacked Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert 15 times, rushing four or fewer and 15 times rushing five or more. But they are getting to him nearly twice as often with blitzes. He’s sacked once every 12.9 plays without extra rusher, and once every 6.8 plays with at least one extra.

Indianapolis’ corners: The Colts just lost their top corner, Jerraud Powers, and their nickel corner, Terrence Johnson for the remainder of the season to injuries. Baltimore challenges the defenders on the outside often as quarterback Joe Flacco thrown outside the number more than anyone except Tony Romo and Eli Manning. Flacco’s only connected on 48.9 percent of his 221 attempts to the outside, however.

The Saints in the middle of the field: No one throws more passes between the numbers than New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees. He’s hitting 72.4 percent of his passes to the middle of the field, for an average of 8.2 yards per attempt with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. Titans rookie middle linebacker Colin McCarthy is coming off an AFC defensive player of the week showing in the win at Buffalo, but Brees will challenge him along with the Titans safeties and nickel corner Cortland Finnegan.

Keep the Bengals from YAC: Houston has tackled pretty well all season and needs to keep it up. The Bengals rarely get a boost from big yards after the catch. Only 39.1 percent of their passing yards come after the catch, the second-lowest percentage in the league. It amounts to only 4.5 yards per catch.

The Colts blitzing: Indianapolis and Philadelphia are tied with the fewest defensive plays sending five or more pass rushers, with 76. But Colts opponents have fared far better against those blitzes than teams going against the Eagles. Against the Colts, quarterbacks have hit 61.8 percent of their pass attempts for seven touchdowns, no interceptions, three sacks and a 120.1 passer rating. Against the Eagles those numbers are 43.4, six, one, six and 95.6.

Defensive back blitzes: Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes to blitz anyone from anywhere. Matt Hasselbeck will have to be on the lookout for guys coming out of the secondary. The Saints have blitzed a safety or corner a league-high 117 times. (The Colts have sent a defensive back after the passer a league-low 11 times, and the Jaguars are second at 22.)

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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