Friday, December 4, 2009
Final Word: AFC South
By Paul Kuharsky ESPN.com
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 13:
The Titans may not have enough people to keep Colts tight end Dallas Clark in check.
Dallas Clark had nine catches for 77 yards when the Colts dismantled the Titans on Oct. 11. He told Nashville media this week that Tennessee doesn’t generally lock in one guy to matchup with him, but that he expects nickelback Vincent Fuller most of the time with a splash of Keith Bulluck. With Clark, Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie playing well and Pierre Garcon rebounding from a tough stretch, will the Colts have more targets than the Titans are able to defend with Cortland Finnegan, Nick Harper and Fuller as the primary defensive backs?
Minus cornerback Rashean Mathis (groin), the Jaguars have given up significant passing yardage the last two weeks -- 297 to the Bills 26th-rated pass offense, 232 to the 23rd-rated Niners. What’s that mean as they head into a game against Houston, which is ranked third? Pass pressure’s been an issue for the Jaguars. Matt Schaub is much less effective against the blitz, but can the Jaguars afford to send extra rushers when their coverage is already more susceptible without Mathis?
If Chris Johnson runs for 104 yards in Indianapolis, he’ll become just the fifth player ever to reach 1,500 in the first 12 games of the season. Walter Payton did it in 11 games in 1977, Jim Brown did it in a dozen games in 1958 and 1963, O.J. Simpson did it in 1973 and 1975 and Terrell Davis did it in 1998. Only two of those six seasons wound up over 2,000 yards. Johnson’s 1,396 yards this season put him on pace for 2,031 and is currently ahead of where Eric Dickerson and Jamal Lewis were through 11 games when they had the top two rushing seasons in NFL history. If CJ tops 125 rush yards, he’ll be the first player ever to do it in seven consecutive games.
Brian Cushing against Maurice Jones-Drew should a very compelling matchup. Cushing been resting a foot injury during the week but playing fantastic on Sundays, making a case for defensive rookie of the year. The Jaguars will doubtlessly look to establish MJD and feed him the ball early and often. Three of the four times MJD has had fewer than 10 touches in the first half, they’ve lost and the one they won they jumped up to a big lead early and basically rested him.
The Titans five-game winning streak isn’t in the ballpark of the Colts’ 20-game string (11 this year), but add this year’s stretches together and you’ve got something. Tennessee and Indy square off tied for the longest combined winning streak -- 16 games -- in an NFL Week 13 game since the AFL-NFL merger. In 1984 Denver (10) and Seattle (six) played in similar circumstances, with the Seahawks winning by three.