Friday, November 4, 2011
Final Word: AFC South
By Paul Kuharsky
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 9:
Over in the first? The Texans have scored 57 points in the first quarter, third most in the league. The Browns have scored three, the fewest in the league. If the patterns hold, could we have a snoozer by the time the teams switch ends? ESPN Stats & Information says no quarterback has been less threatening downfield this season than Cleveland’s Colt McCoy. He has three 30-yard pass plays in 163 completions. That’s 1.8 percent, the lowest percentage of 30-yard plays of anyone this season. I don’t expect the Texans to have receiver Andre Johnson (hamstring), but Houston should still be more threatening downfield than the Browns.
In Julio Jones' last full game, he caught 11 passes for 127 yards.
Bad timing: The Colts seem to be catching the Falcons at the wrong time. If Julio Jones returns from a hamstring injury that cost him the last two games, he will have wide eyes looking at the Indianapolis secondary. In his last full game, Jones was targeted 15 times, the fourth most for any player this season. He wound up with a franchise-rookie record 11 catches for 127 yards. On defense, the Falcons have broken out of a sack slump with eight in their last three games, not good news for Curtis Painter, though he should be behind a better line as some guys are healing up.
Watch the deep stuff: Cincinnati rookie receiver A.J. Green is giving the Bengals something the Titans lack without the injured Kenny Britt -- a serious deep threat. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Green has six receptions on throws more than 20 air yards downfield this season, tied for fourth most in the NFL. Only four rookies have had more than six such receptions since the start of 2008. The Titans have covered reasonably well this season. Odds are we’ll see both Cortland Finnegan and Alterraun Verner working against Green. They’ll need a pass rush to help make it work.
Never ahead: The Colts have run 77 plays when leading this season, the fourth fewest in the NFL behind the Broncos, Seahawks and Rams. Just 16.6 percent of the Colts’ offensive plays have come when leading this season compared to 41.9 percent the three seasons before with Peyton Manning. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have been quiet in recent weeks, and they obviously thrive when a quarterback has to throw. Indianapolis is best playing from ahead, and the Colts have rarely been in that situation this season.
Bengals in nickel: Cincinnati’s pass defense has been stronger when it has had at least five defensive backs on the field, allowing just one touchdown. The Titans are hardly a great three-wide team, considering their third receiver is Lavelle Hawkins. They would be wise to go with two tight ends more often and feature Jared Cook, a player who has been underused. The Bengals have not covered tight ends well this season. Why let Cincinnati get into its nickel package when Matt Hasselbeck has thrown five of six picks against defensive sets with at least one extra defensive back?