AFC South: audibles 12
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
The Texans' offense has been more productive on the scoreboard than the Browns by 3.5 points a game. But that's not enough to offset Houston's turnover troubles if the team keeps on its typical pace.
If Houston can protect the ball, it can win. But if this game turns out to be what it is on paper -- one between the worst turnover team in the league (minus-13) and the third-best (Cleveland is plus-8) -- then things could be predictably in favor of the hosts.
The Browns are 28th against the run and Houston should try to feed Steve Slaton and let him see if he can't have a game to match backs such as Clinton Portis (175 yards), Ray Rice (154), Marshawn Lynch (119), Willie Parker (105) and Derrick Ward (105).
Houston plays bad red zone defense, but red zone production has not been a Cleveland strength.
These teams have underachieved based on preseason expectations. The difference is the Vikings are very much in the fight in the NFC North while the Jaguars trail too many teams in the AFC to be able to make a serious playoff bid.
They have had similar results against common opponents with the one difference being Indianapolis -- the Vikings lost to the Colts while the Jaguars won in overtime at Indianapolis.
In the middle of the defensive line, Minnesota's Kevin Williams and Pat Williams form an imposing duo. The Jaguars used to have one like that, but traded Marcus Stroud and have been getting flat performances out of John Henderson, who missed last week with a knee injury and could miss this game, too.
The best way to move the ball against Minnesota seems to be going after the lesser of the starting cornerbacks, Cedric Griffin, who plays on the right side. Can the Jaguars give David Garrard sufficient time to go after him and can Matt Jones return from a thigh injury and make plays against Griffin?
Two quarterbacks with huge résumés and gray scruff. Two imposing defensive tackles. Two strong running attacks and run defenses. Two hot teams.
We'll let some numbers set the scene for the home team which looks to move to 11-0.
- The Titans have trailed only twice at the half this season. In those two games -- vs. Indianapolis and at Jacksonville -- they rebounded to outscore their opponents 46-14 in the second half with a plus-two turnover differential.
- The Titans have scored the least points on average for a 10-0 team since 1970. They've put up an average of 24.4, fewer than the 1990 Giants (24.6), the 1990 49ers (25.3), the 1975 Vikings (25.3), the 1972 Dolphins (27.8) and the 1985 Bears (27.9). Those Giants, Dolphins and Bears won the Super Bowl.
That goes hand-in-hand with scoring defense, where the Titans are the sixth stingiest 10-0 team since 1970, allowing an average of 13.1 points. Four of the five teams better than that -- the 1990 Giants (11.0), the 1991 Redskins (12.5), the 1985 Bears (12.7), and the 1972 Dolphins (12.7) went on to win the Super Bowl.
- If the game is still up in the air in the fourth quarter, the Titans need to break a recent Jets trend. In winning its last three games the Jets have dominated fourth-quarter time of possession. They held the ball for 10:54 at the Patriots, 13:27 against the Rams and for 13:49 at the Bills.
- If you watch one matchup, see how left guard Eugene Amano handles himself against Kris Jenkins, the New York nose tackle who's made a tremendous transition from the Carolina Panthers 4-3 to the Jets 3-4.
Peyton Manning has been crisp during a three-game win streak that's thrust the Colts firmly into the wild-card picture. In those three games, he has seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
These two teams faced off in San Diego in Week 10 last season and things were hardly so good for Manning -- he threw two touchdowns and a franchise-record six interceptions. Even so, the Colts had a chance to win. But Adam Vinatieri missed two field goals in the same game for the first time since 2001 as the Chargers won 23-21.
Including the playoffs, Manning has five consecutive 300-plus-yard games against the Chargers. In the last three, he has needed to throw at least 45 passes and the Colts have lost.