Tuesday, December 27, 2011
AFC South Stock Watch
By Paul Kuharsky
1. The Houston Texans' confidence: They will say otherwise, but coming off of two bad losses the Texans have to be wondering about themselves. They got pushed around by Carolina, and their vaunted defense fell apart in the final minutes, allowing the Colts to drive to a game-winning touchdown. I was among those questioning this team’s mental makeup coming into the season. I thought they’d answered that question resoundingly as they ran away with the division. Is it creeping back in now?
2. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ dealings with tight ends:Marcedes Lewis will be a headliner on the AFC South All Disappointment Team, and if not for Chris Johnson, he’d be the captain. Saturday in Nashville, he pulled up on one ball across the middle for fear of a hit from notorious thumper Michael Griffin, the Titans safety (#sarcasm). On the other end, the defense let Tennessee’s Jared Cook run wild. The coverage call on Cook’s 55-yard touchdown pass that sent the safeties wide and left middle linebacker Paul Posluszny covering Cook deep down the middle was disastrous.
3. The Houston Texans’ third-down offense: On last week’s list, it was third-down defense. The Colts allowed them just one conversion in 10 chances, and that one came on a pass that bounced off Antoine Bethea twice. This team can win with games centered on defense and the run game. But if the offense can’t convert third downs and stay on the field for some extended drives, the strain on those two areas becomes too much and the margin of error shrivels.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne stepped up in last Sunday's win against Houston.
1. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver: He talked leading up to the Colts' home finale about wanting to go out with a bang in case it turned out to be his last game as a Colt at Lucas Oil Stadium. I saw one early route where I thought his effort was questionable. But he sure cranked it up as Dan Orlovsky threw his direction 14 times. He pulled in eight receptions for 106 yards and cradled the game-winning touchdown after a 1-yard catch that provided the winning margin for Indianapolis in its second consecutive win. He’s heading toward free agency and it’s clear he can still produce. How much longer is the question.
2. The Tennessee Titans’ discipline: Mike Munchak has preached discipline from his first day as the Titans coach. Saturday, when he didn’t get a postgame question about a penalty-free performance, he didn’t leave the podium before jokingly pointing it out. It was the first time the franchise didn’t draw a flag in a game since 1972. Meanwhile the Titans benefited from six calls against the Jaguars that gave Tennessee 28 yards and three first downs.
3. Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans tight end: Following the best game for a tight end in franchise history -- 169 yards -- he’s in range of the franchise record for tight end receiving yards in a season. He’s a receiver-like threat who I believe has been under-used by offensive coordinator Chris Palmer and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck since Kenny Britt went down early in the season. Cook killed the Titans with a lost fumble in the loss at Indianapolis. The effort against the Jaguars was an excellent rebound. The Titans need to find ways to get him the ball Sunday at Reliant Stadium.