Audibles: AFC South Week 14 preview

December, 5, 2008
12/05/08
3:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Cincinnati Bengals (1-10-1) at Indianapolis Colts (8-4), 1 p.m. ET
Peyton Manning didn't throw a touchdown pass last week in Cleveland.

That's bad news for the Bengals.

Since 2000, and not counting games at the end of the season that didn't have meaning because the Colts had sewn up their playoff position, Manning is 11-1 in games after he didn't throw a touchdown pass, with 29 touchdown passes and only six interceptions.

The Colts have won five in a row, all by six points or fewer. If they win this one by six or fewer, they'll be the first team ever with such a six-game streak.

Can the Bengals put up that sort of resistance? They've been outscored by an average of 13.2 points a game.

Tidbits: Bengals tight end Ben Utecht spent the last three seasons with the Colts ... Playing for the Titans, Antwan Odom had two sacks in his most recent game against the Colts, both of Jim Sorgi ... Odom (shoulder) and Utecht (foot) will be miss Sunday's game ... Marvin Harrison caught three touchdown passes the last time he played against the Bengals, on Dec. 18, 2006.

Houston Texans (5-7) at Green Bay Packers (5-7), 1 p.m. ET
The Packers are 1-4 since their bye week and have allowed 86 points and eight rushing touchdowns over the last two weeks.

Those numbers could bode well for Houston. Rookie running back Steve Slaton has been super-productive in his last three games with 56 carries for 359 yards -- that's 6.4 yards per carry -- to go with three touchdowns. He's 96 yards away from 1,000. He'll be taking handoffs from Matt Schaub, back at quarterback after a four-game layoff recovering from a knee injury.

Houston has won two in a row and looks for its second three-game win streak of the season.

Tidbits: In his only game against the Packers, receiver Andre Johnson caught six passes for 107 yards ... Mario Williams is third in the NFL since 2007 with 25 sacks ... Houston was 3-1 in December last year, while the Packers have won seven of their last eight games in the month.

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8) at Chicago Bears (6-6), 1 p.m. ET
Since 2000, running back Fred Taylor leads the NFL with 13 100-yard rushing games against the NFC. But he's averaging less than 42 yards a game this year and the way the Bears have played the run, it seems unlikely Taylor or Maurice Jones-Drew, who has six rushing TDs in his last five games, will break out. In nine games against teams other than the Vikings or Packers, Chicago has allowed 59.2 ground yards a game and 2.6 yards a carry.

Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard hasn't been on the injury report this week, but he has been banged up. He's fared well in his career against NFC teams with a 7-1 record, and in his last four he has a 96.8 passer rating. However, he's been sacked 11 times in his last three games.

Tidbits: The Jaguars will start Drayton Florence at cornerback in place of Rashean Mathis, who's out for the season with a knee injury, and William James could play as the nickelback ... Chicago leads the NFL with 26 takeaways and Jacksonville has 18 giveaways ... When he last played against Jacksonville, as a Miami Dolphin in 2003, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye had three sacks and a forced fumble.

Cleveland Browns (4-8) at Tennessee Titans (11-1), 1 p.m. ET
The Titans clinch the AFC South with a win or a Colts loss to Cincinnati, and clinch a first-round bye with a win and a Jets loss at San Francisco.

At plus-13, Tennessee is the league's best takeaway/giveaway team and Cleveland is tied for fifth at plus-6.

December football for the Titans means forcing the issue with the run. Against Cleveland's 3-4 and nose tackle Shaun Rogers, they will look to build on this: Since 2007, the Titans are 18-3 in games where they record 30 or more rushes. Rookie Chris Johnson will key the attack.

Most rushes of 10 or more yards in 2008:

1) Michael Turner, Atlanta, 33
2) Adrian Peterson, Minnesota, 32
3) Clinton Portis, Washington, 29
4) Thomas Jones, NY Jets, 27
5) Chris Johnson, Tennessee, 25
6) Marion Barber, Dallas, 23
Brandon Jacobs, NY Giants, 23
Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo, 23
Derrick Ward, NY Giants, 23
DeAngelo Williams, Carolina, 23

The Browns will start Ken Dorsey at quarterback, their third different starter this season. The only other teams to use three starters this year -- Kansas City, Seattle and Detroit are a combined 4-32.

Tidbits: The Browns have won the last three meetings ... Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck will start his 110th consecutive game. He needs five tackles for his seventh consecutive season over 100 ... Rob Bironas has a league-high 14 field goals from 40 yards or longer this season, but not one attempt from 50 or longer.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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