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Friday, November 7, 2008
Audibles: AFC South Week 10 preview


Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Tennessee Titans (8-0) at Chicago Bears (5-3), 1 p.m. ET

Chris Johnson and Matt Forte are off to excellent starts, and their meeting Sunday is the first between such effective rookies in 43 years.

Johnson and Forte are the only rookie running backs who enter Week 10 among the top 10 backs in the league in rushing yards. Only twice before in history have rookie running backs ranked in the top 10 in rushing with at least 600 yards apiece squared off:

Both those games were won by the team with the back who entered the game with more yards. Entering the game, Johnson has 715 yards to Forte's 641.

The forecast calls for rain and snow, and both teams' preference would be to grind it out. The Titans have yielded some sizable gains to running backs in recent weeks.

Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5) at Detroit Lions (0-8), 1 p.m. ET

After a week of drama featuring a conflict between Jack Del Rio and linebacker Mike Peterson and some changes in the locker room intended to improve the team's focus, can the Jaguars get things back together?

Coming off a loss to previously winless Cincinnati, a loss to winless Detroit would make it difficult for Del Rio to hold the team together moving forward.

With the new-to-the-team Daunte Culpepper (Dan Orlovsky is injured and will not play) quarterbacking the Lions, might this be a game where Jacksonville can afford to take an occasional risk in coverage in order to send some blitzes? It would seem the Jaguars could make things a lot easier on themselves by rattling the quarterback early, but if Jacksonville doesn't get to him quickly, such an approach increases the risk of a big play from Calvin Johnson. And the first thing the Jaguars' defensive coaches probably said when they sat down to sketch out the game plan was, "We can't let Johnson beat us."

Matt Jones is averaging 11.6 yards a catch. For some reason, I picture him getting some yards after the catch in this one.

Indianapolis Colts (4-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2), 4:15 p.m. ET

It's hard to imagine sacks not being the story of this game.

Pittsburgh's defense is second in sacks per pass, but its offense is 31st in the same category.

Peyton Manning hasn't been sacked in his last three games and is going to get rid of the ball quickly, but the Steelers can certainly make things very difficult for him.

The question will be whether the Colts quick pass-rushers will be able to take advantage of a porous offensive line and get to the injured Ben Roethlisberger or his replacement, Byron Leftwich. Indianapolis has gone three games without a quarterback takedown.

The Colts have lost 12 straight games at Pittsburgh -- the third-longest active road losing streak in the league. That number gets a lot of attention but means nothing to the group with horseshoes on their helmets that will take the field Sunday.

Only nine current players were on the most recent team that lost at Pittsburgh (2002).

Baltimore Ravens (5-3) at Houston Texans (3-5), 1 p.m. ET

Opposing quarterbacks have posted a 97.2 passer rating against the Texans this year, with a 65.1 percent completion percentage, 8.09 yards per attempt, 12 touchdowns, six interceptions and 14 sacks.

To beat Baltimore, Houston has to fare better. But rookie Joe Flacco has led the Ravens to three consecutive wins while completing 60.5 percent of his passes for 620 yards with four touchdowns, no picks, four sacks and a 104.1 passer rating.

Defensive end Mario Williams is averaging a sack a game, and it's hard for offenses to predict where he might line up as he flips from one side to the other. The Texans hope he'll be able to beat left tackle Jared Gaither and right tackle Adam Terry.

A pounding or two from Williams could prompt Flacco to play more like he did in his first five games, when he absorbed 10 sacks, threw seven picks and fumbled five times.