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Final Word: AFC South

12/30/2011

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:

Pressure tells the story: The Houston Texans sack or put quarterbacks under duress 28.0 percent of the time, the highest rate in the NFL. No one has a front that swarms as consistently as Houston's. The Tennessee Titans are recording a sack or putting quarterbacks under duress on 18.4 percent of opponent dropbacks this season, the second-lowest rate in the NFL. If Matt Hasselbeck is under constant pressure and T.J. Yates isn’t, this game will lean toward the Texans despite the fact that Tennessee has much more at stake.

Big milestones in range: Maurice Jones-Drew has a 128-yard lead on the rushing title heading into the day, but the Jacksonville Jaguars would surely like to guarantee that the running back secures the honor. He will be just the sixth back since 1970 to lead the league in rushing on a team with five wins or fewer and the fifth to lead the league in rushing on the NFL’s worst passing team. Tennessee receiver Nate Washington is 69 yards from a 1,000-yard season, which would be a giant accomplishment on this Titans team. Ben Tate could see a good share of carries against the Titans, but the 155 rushing yards needed to get him to 1,000 for the season is probably too much to expect.

Hands in the air: Houston is very good at batting balls down near the line of scrimmage. ESPN Stats & Info says the Texans have batted down a league-high 19 passes at the line of scrimmage this season. No other team has more than 14 (Miami Dolphins). Hasselbeck is susceptible to linemen getting their paws on his throws. He has had 13 passes batted down this season, tied with the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez for the most in the NFL. Hasselbeck had his worst game of the season in the Oct. 23 loss to the Texans. To win this one, the Titans are going to need a good passing day. Hasselbeck needs 226 passing yards to become just the second Oilers/Titans quarterback to throw for 3,500 yards in a season, joining Hall of Famer Warren Moon. Moon did it in 1989, 1990 and 1991.

Open it up: The Jaguars don’t have the pass protection or the weapons to create a lot of big plays down the field. The Indianapolis Colts have gotten far better defense as they’ve won two straight, but they still have unproven guys in the secondary. With nothing to lose, the Jaguars should not try to play it safe with short passes -- look what that did for the Titans and Texans the past two weeks against Indianapolis. When they are not handing the ball to MJD, the Jaguars should chip Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis as needed and tell Blaine Gabbert to test the pass coverage deep. I’ve written they should go crazy a few times this season. In the last game for this coaching staff, why not take chances?

Also: Despite being inactive for two games and sidelined for much of another, Arian Foster has rushed for at least 100 yards in a league-high seven games. Since the start of the 2010 season, Foster leads the league in rush yards (2,840), rush touchdowns (26) and first downs (147). ... Only the New York Giants' Jake Ballard (15.9) has a higher yards per catch average than Jared Cook (15.5) among tight ends with significant action. … Gabbert had been sacked 37 times (tied for third-most in the NFL) and has the lowest passer rating (64.3) and QBR (21.3) among quarterbacks who have had significant playing time this season.