Friday, September 18, 2009
AFC South: Final Word
By Paul Kuharsky
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Five nuggets of knowledge about Sunday’s games:
The Titans and Texans will be more comfortable on offense: Yes, the 3-4 is becoming more popular. Both these teams has 3-4s on their mind through much off the offseason and preseason because they opened against Pittsburgh and the Jets, respectively. But now in their head-to-head matchup, they get to go back to the more familiar 4-3 base defenses of a familiar division opponent. That doesn’t mean things will be simpler, but they will probably be more familiar and straightforward.
Charlie Johnson is going to tell us a lot: The Jaguars are not an especially good pass-rushing team. The Dolphins are a different story. The Colts’ left tackle, Johnson, will be tested on virtually every snap by outside linebacker Joey Porter and end Randy Starks. The Colts will be prepared to help Johnson if they have to and the game plan will certain feature quick throws. But on big snaps, can Johnson keep Manning clean and create room for Joseph Addai and Donald Brown?
The Jaguars have to rough up Kurt Warner: The veteran quarterback’s offensive line doesn’t qualify as a team strength, but neither does the Jaguars' defensive line. They’ve lost Reggie Hayward and are playing a lot of 3-4. No matter how many guys are at the line of scrimmage, can the Jaguars break through and put Warner on the ground with any regularity? Derrick Harvey shouldn’t feel good about the team downplaying its expectations of him. This would be a good game for him to make some noise, but the Jaguars need consistent push from everybody.
If Chris Brown gets over 10 carries, that means good things for Houston: The Texans would like to have a dual-threat backfield with Steve Slaton and Brown. But for Brown to get 10 or more carries, it has to mean the team is running the ball over 30 times because Slaton will be the primary guy. If the Texans run enough for Brown to get that work, it means bad things for Tennessee. Still, maybe the Titans would prefer Brown to get touches over Andre Johnson.
David Garrard has to do more in the pass game: That means Torry Holt and Troy Williamson have to play better, too. I expect the Jaguars will be able to run it and should do well in managing the clock. But the fact is, grinding it out and wearing a team down is great, but big plays are a different sort of demoralizing. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter needs to find and exploit something in the Cardinals' pass defense and help put his guys in position for a couple of field-flipping plays that can make things so much easier for everyone. Odds are the Cardinals will find a couple and the Jaguars have to offset them somehow.