AFC South: Najeh Davenport

Audibles: AFC South Week 17 preview

December, 26, 2008
12/26/08
5:08
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Tennessee Titans (13-2) at Indianapolis Colts (11-4), 1 p.m. ET

For much of the year there was speculation that this game would be a mirror image of last season's finale. In 2007, the Titans needed to win to get in and the game meant nothing to the Colts, who didn't play their key people long, if at all.

Indy avoided that role reversal by clinching the top wild-card berth on Dec. 18.

So now the game means nothing for either team.

The Colts are a week away from a playoff opener and will rest up. The Titans have a week off coming up and would like to maintain some rhythm, but aren't going to risk much. Tennessee probably wants to win more, because it would mean the first 14-win season in franchise history.

But look deep on the depth charts to find the guys who will determine the outcome. We're talking Jim Sorgi, Pierre Garcon and Najeh Davenport of the Colts against Vince Young, Chris Henry and Paul Williams.

Kudos to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his efforts to ensure the schedule offers better games at the end of the season and fewer meaningless contests involving playoff teams. This one had potential for a while, but unfortunately qualifies as a miss.

The biggest win for either side? No one gets hurt.

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) at Baltimore Ravens (10-5), 4:15 ET

The Jaguars have played better the past two weeks, which has many feeling they could be poised to be a spoiler for the Ravens -- who need a win to get the final AFC playoff berth.

Here's why Baltimore can be confident: While the Ravens have lost all five games they've played against playoff teams, they're undefeated against teams who aren't playing in January. And the Jaguars were eliminated weeks ago.

Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew has a knee injury but practiced Friday and is probable. He's topped 100 yards only twice this season, and the Ravens haven't allowed a back to go over 100 in 34 consecutive games. He's more likely to hurt the Ravens as a receiver - he's got 61 receptions for 555 yards.

With Matt Jones suspended, the Jaguars have turned to Dennis Northcutt as a target and in two games with the bigger role, he has 13 catches for 228 yards with two touchdowns.

Chicago Bears (9-6) at Houston Texans (7-8), 1 p.m. ET

It was a big development for this game Friday when the Bears placed safety Mike Brown on injured reserve. Replacement Craig Steltz won't be as helpful for Chicago as it tries to slow down the Matt Schaub-to-Andre Johnson connection.

Johnson's numbers at Reliant Stadium are spectacular: a 134.4 yard average with five games over 100 yards. But don't sleep on Kevin Walter - if the receiver who plays opposite Johnson catches a touchdown pass, he'll break Johnson's franchise record of eight.

The Texans have heard a lot about how they've been good at winning games that don't mean anything. They could score some respect, claim progress and get a big gift basket from the Vikings if they step it up here and do well as a spoiler against the Bears.

Steve Slaton went against fellow rookie running back Chris Johnson twice in matchups with the Titans. Now he's in another matchup against a successful rookie back in the Bears' Matt Forte, who's the lone rookie in the league to lead his team in rushing (1,188 yards), receptions (60) and touchdowns (12).

Click here to access the NFL Pick Center, a service for ESPN Insiders where fans can view two different simulation models for every NFL game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans are going to go deep into the bench Sunday in Indianapolis. They want to win their 14th game as the franchise has never hit that total before. To do it, they're likely going to need contributions from players who've been living in the deep background.

Players like running back Chris Henry. The Titans fourth running back behind Chris Johnson, LenDale White and Quinton Ganther, Henry has not dressed for a game this year.

Henry rates as the biggest miss of the Mike Reinfeldt era, which is only two years. A workout warrior, he came to the NFL with minimal experience in college at Arizona. And he's shown minimal instincts as a running back since the Titans took him in the second round, 50th overall.

It's too easy to look back at drafts and say who a team could have had in a certain spot, but the Titans were receiver needed -- as they always seem to be -- and USC's Steve Smith went with the pick after Henry to the New York Giants. He's their leading receiver with 55 catches.

I talked to Henry after practice Friday.

What do you need to make of this chance?

"I'm going to just take it as a regular game and go out and do my best."

What's the year been like for you watching the run game excel and not being a part of it in games?

"I don't really look at it like that. I look at it as they did the best they could this year and they did amazing. The team is winning games, that's all that's important."

Does this count as a lost year for you personally?

"I don't know what you want to consider lost, because I'm in the NFL. As far as production standpoint, of course. The only thing I can do is take it in stride and do whatever I can this game and take it game by game."

Could what you do in the game have a big bearing on your future?

"Yeah, I go into the game just treating it as if I've been playing all season, really. It's not like I've never played before. So I just go in, do what I can and put some good stuff on film."

What do you think your future is here beyond this year?

"I don't know, I have no idea. Who knows? That's why I've got to do the best I can on Sunday, put some good stuff on film and go from there."

Because the game has no bearing on either team's playoff positioning, we'll also probably see Chad Simpson, Najeh Davenport and Lance Ball, expected to be elevated from the practice squad, in the backfield for the Colts. Dominic Rhodes is out with a chest injury and Simpson is questionable with an ankle injury. Neither practiced all week.

One more thing on Henry. I asked him about Darrell Reid, the Colts defensive lineman.

Last year in the season finale when the Titans played at Indianapolis and had to win to get into the playoff, Henry fielded a kickoff, ran up the middle, slowed and got leveled by Reid. It's a hit that's been replayed often in highlight packages.

Will you be conscious of him at all?

"Why would I be conscious of him? I am not conscious [he made quotation marks in the air] of anybody, that's why I am a professional athlete. Why would I be conscious of any man? There is no man on earth that I'm conscious of, know what I am saying? It doesn't matter."

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
Addai

Tony Dungy talked through his plans at running back for Sunday against Detroit, with all indications that Joseph Addai will not play because of a shoulder injury.

"My sense is we'll probably hold him out if there's any question at all," Dungy told Indianapolis reporters Friday morning, before his team practiced. "He wants to play. Right now, it's questionable. We'll see how it is. We're going to rest him (Friday) and let some of the other backs take the work and we'll see what happens."

Dominic Rhodes moves up to take the primary carries, but things behind him are in question.

Rookie Chad Simpson missed Wednesday and Thursday practices with an ankle injury.

"We got a new twist on the Chad Simpson situation," Dungy said. "Chad is going to try to go (Friday) and thinks he may be able to play. That's another reason if we have any question with Joe we may be able to hold him down. We're going to look at Najeh (Davenport) and Chad (Friday) and see how they do."

So if Addai is out, Simpson is in line to be the second running back if he can go. If he can't, it will be Davenport, and if it's Davenport, the Colts will have to adjust and slow down since he just joined the team this week.

"When he's in there we'll probably have to huddle a little bit and make sure we get him as much information as we can, so that may change us a little bit if he is playing," Dungy said.

Davenport will return kicks even if Simpson is active.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

A full slate of headlines collected during my morning surfing session...

Houston Texans

Richard Justice looks at Vince Young, coming home at a career crossroads.

The Texans win in December, but it's usually been too late, says Dale Robertson.

The Titans Houston-based owner Bud Adams has been smartly patient with his people, writes John McClain.

Former receiver Harry Williams won the Texans' Ed Block Courage Award.

McClain looks at Titans-Texans matchups.

Indianapolis Colts

Is Peyton Manning lining up for a third MVP? Mike Chappell contemplates.

Chappell looks at four of Manning's best moments this season.

The transcript of Bill Polian's weekly radio show.

Clint Session is a lot better player than he was early this season, according to Phillip B. Wilson.

Jim Trotter says it's a toss-up whether the Colts are going to be a threat in the playoffs.

Najeh Davenport joined the Colts and is ready to return kicks, writes Phil Richards.

A look at Darrell Reid's prep career, by Chappell.

The Colts have to be wary of Calvin Johnson.

Jacksonville Jaguars

His season over, Fred Taylor plans to play in 2009, writes Vito Stellino.

Packers-Jaguars won't be blacked out in Jacksonville.

Tennessee Titans

Please don't miss those two stories from Houston under the Texans header -- one on Vince Young and one on Bud Adams.

Kicker Rob Bironas is hoping for a long-term deal, says Jessica Bliss.

LenDale White only has 674 yards, but holds out hope of joining Chris Johnson as a 1,000-yard rusher, writes Gary Estwick.

A Nashville lab confirmed the contents of the controversial StarCaps over a year ago, writes Teresa Walker.

Michael Roos is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, says Terry McCormick.

SPONSORED HEADLINES