- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 12:
Stacked box: The Texans will welcome the Jaguars’ defense to load up the box in an effort to slow the run game and put more on Matt Leinart's shoulders. Running back Arian Foster is excellent against fronts with an extra defender. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Foster has the fourth-most rushes (125) against defenses with eight or more defenders in the box pre-snap over the last two seasons. Foster has done well in these situations, averaging 3.9 yards per rush, which is half a yard per rush better than the NFL average. He’s also second in first downs over that time period with 39. The Jaguars will be without starting cornerback Rashean Mathis and the other starting corner, Derek Cox, is also expected to miss the game. Leinart should have some favorable matchups with Andre Johnson back.
A struggling opponent: Like the Titans, the Buccaneers have not played very well since a 3-1 start. Tampa Bay’s actually had worse results. Per ESPN Stats & Information, only the Colts (32.0) have allowed more points per game since Week 5 than the Buccaneers (31.8). On offense, Josh Freeman has thrown 15 interceptions, second in the league to San Diego’s Philip Rivers (17). Freeman has thrown at least two picks in his last two games and in five games overall this season. The Buccaneers are 1-4 in games where he throws at least two picks.
Potential third-down bonanza: The Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts are two of the three worst teams in the NFL in yards-per-play allowed on third down this season. The Panthers give up an average of 7.4 while the Colts allow 7.0. The big difference in what the offenses can do. Indianapolis ranks 24th in third-down offense while Carolina ranks 13th. It’s a pretty easy answer if you’re choosing between Cam Newton or Curtis Painter when you’re in need of a first down (or anything, really).
Capable of an upset: The Jaguars have won four straight home games against the Texans, are 2-2 at home this season and are 2-1 against the AFC South. All that provides some reason for confidence Sunday at EverBank Field. But, they face the league’s top defense while ranking 31st in the NFL in scoring at 12.5 points per game. The Jaguars have yet to score more than 20 points in a game this season, making them just the second team to fail to score more than 20 points in their first 10 games in the last four seasons (2009 Raiders). Blaine Gabbert continues to show he’s not ready to be playing -- Jacksonville’s offense is producing an NFL-worst 249.5 yards per game. No team has averaged fewer than 250 yards per game in a season since 2008, when the Browns and Bengals did it.
Gut feelings: In their last eight games, the Titans have beaten bad teams and lost to good ones. The Buccaneers are not a good team right now. But the Titans shouldn’t expect Chris Johnson to contribute. They should go into the game intending to throw a lot. ... The Colts should have tried Dan Orlovsky at quarterback. Why are they afraid of change? Are things going to get worse?... The Jaguars’ defense has been quite good, but I don’t think they have the depth at cornerback to survive without both their starters. The way to handle it is to pass rush very well, but they don’t have the people for that either and Houston can protect Leinart well. … Johnson will look like he was never out for the Texans.