Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 11:
Look long: I’ve been critical of Jaguars QB David Garrard’s ability to see receivers downfield and connect with them. But in his past two games he has been ridiculously good on balls thrown over 10 yards. (Yes, that includes the batted Hail Mary that won the Houston game.) In two games since returning from a concussion, ESPN Stats & Information says Garrard has hit on 66.2 percent of such throws for a 20.5 yards per attempt average, three touchdowns and no interceptions and a 149.3 passer rating. The Browns will certainly be conscious of that, which may mean there is a little more room underneath for a guy like Maurice Jones-Drew.
More men on Manning: Since Colts tight end Dallas Clark was lost for the season with a wrist injury, defenses have been blitzing Peyton Manning more. The thinking is that Clark was an excellent safety blanket and outlet for Manning to find against extra rushers, but that he’s got less reliable options in those situations now. In the past three games, he has seen five or more rushers 37.7 percent of the time (as compared to 21.9 percent before). In those situations, he has completed only 54.2 percent of his passes, posted a passer rating of 66.5 and been sacked four times. Will Patriots coach Bill Belichick find a way to have a similar effect?
Careful with Cooley: The Titans have struggled against tight ends recently, getting lit up by San Diego’s Antonio Gates and Miami’s Anthony Fasano in recent weeks. Jason Witten and Kevin Boss also have had big games against them. Jeff Fisher has said it’s mostly on the linebackers. Well, they need to do better against Washington’s dangerous Chris Cooley, a guy who can do some damage after the catch. There can’t be communication issues about who’s on him when and where, or he can tear them up.
Force Foster: The Jets are fifth against the run and 14th against the pass, but that doesn’t mean the Texans should minimize Arian Foster. Offenses with a good back against good run defenses shouldn’t presume he won’t be able to gain yards. I think the Texans would be well served to show some attitude here. When they lost their opener to the Jets last season, New York players suggested the Texans were a finesse team that couldn’t slug it out toe-to-toe. Forcing the issue early with Foster would go a long way in this game toward showing the hosts that’s no longer the case. Trouble is, it may still be.
Force fumbles: If the Patriots happen to be losing late and trying to muster a late drive, they should be hyper-aware of Dwight Freeney. In the Colts’ past two wins, he has had a strip sack late in the fourth quarter to get Indianapolis the ball back. Even as offensive linemen and quarterbacks know what’s coming, Freeney is able to dig down and make a giant play to help secure a win. Second-year tackle Sebastian Vollmer is 6-foot-8, 315 pounds. Will there be a critical moment when the 6-1, 268 Freeney speeds, or spins, around him?