Chris Johnson was effective last week with the Titans protecting a big lead. Can he keep it up against the Falcons?
Counter action: A week ago, we examined how the Titans had moved away from some run plays that had benefited Chris Johnson in the past, plays that unconventionally featured a counter element. In the win at Cleveland, those plays re-emerged. K.C. Joyner said the Titans employed that counter action on Johnson’s 25-yard run and again on an 8-yard gain in the win over the Browns. It was a good adjustment and needs to be part of what the Titans do going forward. Look for it against the Steelers.
Darren McFadden to the left: ESPN Stats & Information says that Raiders running back Darren McFadden has had great success running to the left this season. He’s averaging a remarkable 8.2 yards per carry going that direction. It’s bad news for the Texans, because they’ve been susceptible to runs in that direction, allowing 6.35 yards a carry, the fourth-highest average in the NFL. I’m sure defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and the Texans are aware of this and will be concentrating on making sure it’s not an issue Sunday at Reliant Stadium.
Quiet first quarter: The Colts and the Chiefs are two of five teams in the league that have not scored a first-quarter touchdown this season. Kansas City is the only team that hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown. Defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis may be the Colts' two most productive players through four weeks. Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel’s protection and ability to get rid of the ball have been pretty good; he’s been sacked only five times so far. The ability of the Colts' pass-rushing duo to hit and harass Cassel may be the biggest factor in the game.
No let-up: When we first looked at the Jaguars’ schedule, this game against Cincinnati looked to be one they should win. But heading into a game pitting rookie quarterbacks head to head, Andy Dalton versus Blaine Gabbert, the Bengals have the league’s top defense. That’s not good news for a Jacksonville offense that’s last in points per game and second to last in yards per game. On the bright side, the Jaguars have won seven times in a row against the Bengals in Jacksonville. Gabbert threw flat-footed too often this past Sunday in the loss to New Orleans and needs to be better mechanically to increase his offense’s chances to move the ball and score some points.
Badly timed injury: Former Titans tight end Frank Wycheck (who I work with on Nashville radio) rates Craig Stevens as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league. Stevens would figure to be key in a game against the physical Steelers, even without the injured James Harrison. But the tight end has been out this week with a rib injury suffered in Cleveland, and odds are he's unable to play. Without him at Heinz Field, Daniel Graham and Jared Cook will have to do more blocking. I expect the Steelers to try to really test them and for Tennessee to really miss Stevens.