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Friday, October 30, 2009
Final Word: AFC South

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com


NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8:

 
 Jason Miller/US Presswire
 It is important for Titans quarterback Vince Young to start the game well.
Vince Young is going to tell us a lot with his body language: I’ve documented his poor history against the Jaguars, but matchup-wise he could have done worse. Jacksonville struggles to get heat on the passer. He should have time to be decisive. Surely the Titans will give him a simple game plan to work with, but how he starts is going to be a big deal. If he has a bad series or two, is he slumped and looking defeated or does he have bounce in his step as he takes the offense back onto the field? I think we’ll have a lot of signs to interpret.

The 49ers will have a shock factor: They will have worked all week on stuff they are sure is going to work, and Peyton Manning will undo a piece of it with some sort of ridiculous completion. As that unfolds, a team unfamiliar with playing the Colts is likely to start wondering just what it has gotten itself into. If the 49ers fall behind, watch Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis attack Alex Smith. Things could get ugly. Smith used to drop the ball a lot. Mathis and Freeney do a great job of knocking it free.

The flags will be flapping in Buffalo: Wind is always an issue at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Houston’s win at Green Bay last year was a benchmark moment. Now comes another weather challenge on the road in a game that could really boost the Texans into the pool of AFC teams considered playoff contenders. Can the Texans find the recipe where they show a commitment to the run but still find big chunks of yardage with their precision passing? It could be a good week for a bigger pass rush -- defensive line coach Bill Kollar joined the Texans from the Bills and likely has some special insight they can put to use.

A contest of corner depth: Vincent Fuller returns for the Titans who probably get Cortland Finnegan back too, but they will be without Nick Harper. That means Jason McCourty is likely in the mix. The Jaguars are without Rashean Mathis (finger) which probably means Tyron Brackenridge or Scott Starks is in the lineup. Which substitute corner can hold up the best? Can coordinators Dirk Koetter and Mike Heimerdinger dial up stuff for David Garrard and Young, respectively, to take advantage?

Sanders vs. Gore: Pound Frank Gore and try to build from there. That’s the one game plan you’d think the 49ers will try to stick with. The Colts seem more susceptible up the middle than around the edges, but Bob Sanders is likely to be sharper in his second game back from a knee injury. Look for a couple top notch collisions between a back averaging 5.3 yards a carry and a safety looking to re-establish himself as a bruising run defender.