Friday, December 14, 2012
Final Word: AFC South
By Paul Kuharsky
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15:
On the verge: A year after finishing 2-14, the Colts can clinch a playoff spot with a win OR a loss by the Jets. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since the schedule expanded to 16 games in 1978, only two teams have made the playoffs the year after going 2-14 or worse: the 2008 Dolphins and 1982 Patriots, both of whom lost their first playoff game. The Texans, meanwhile, will clinch the AFC South with a win and can wrap up a first-round bye with a win, Patriots loss and Broncos loss. Houston, which won the division for the first time last season, can become the only team other than the Colts to win consecutive AFC South titles since the division was created in 2002.
Bad beginnings: The Titans' slow starts have been a major problem. ESPN Stats & Information points out the Titans have allowed 38 more points in the first quarter than any other team. They are minus-66 in the first quarter. The Raiders are second worst (minus-57). The Titans have allowed 131 first-quarter points, 38 more than the Saints, who are second worst. The Jets are averaging only three first-quarter points. They are trying to take pressure off struggling quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Titans need to stuff Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell on the ground and put the game on Sanchez’s shoulders.
'J.J. Swatt' has deflected 35 passes this season, tops in the league.
Watt vs. Luck: The Texans have batted or tipped a league-high 35 passes this season, including 15 by J.J. Watt. Andrew Luck has a league-high 21 passes batted or tipped this season. That’s a major issue to keep an eye on, particularly if the Texans can turn tipped balls into interceptions. Luck has the most drop backs under duress in the fourth quarter this season, but he has handled the pressure. Luck has been his best under duress in the fourth quarter, throwing two touchdowns (as opposed to one in the first three quarters) and no interceptions.
Back home:Chad Henne will face the Dolphins, who drafted him in 2008 with the 57th overall pick. In 36 career games and 31 starts with Miami, Henne completed 60.7 percent of his passes. That is the highest completion percentage in franchise history (minimum 200 attempts). If he’s to play well, ideally he’ll be looking to Cecil Shorts, who is coming off a concussion. He has a receiving touchdown in four straight games. Only Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew have scored a touchdown in five or more consecutive games in team history.
Play-action at issue: Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has 10 touchdown passes on play-action throws this season, tied for the league lead with Drew Brees and Peyton Manning. The Colts have struggled to defend play-action this season, allowing the fifth-worst Total QBR (84.1) on those plays with 9.4 yards per attempt, six touchdowns and no interceptions. If Houston can get Arian Foster going and make play-action believable, it could be a long day for Indianapolis.