Heavy heat: The Chargers’ pass rush has produced a league-best 32 sacks. Peyton Manning’s been great at getting rid of the ball, but against a top rushing group there won’t often be a lot of time for things to develop downfield for him. And it appears he will still be missing a top piece of his pass protection, because running backáJoseph Addai (neck) is doing only non-contact work in practices this week. The Colts can be super-effective with the short and quick passing game, but if the Chargers can find a big play against it, they could throw Sunday night’s game out of whack. As for deep stuff, Manning has a passer rating of 61.8, and six of his seven interceptions are on balls thrown 15 yards or longer.
Texans defensive end Mario Williams will be on the mind of Titans rookie QB Rusty Smith.
Watch Williams early: Titans rookie quarterback Rusty Smith has drawn a favorable matchup here, going against the terrible Texans’ pass defense. The Texans simply can’t afford to let Smith find any sort of comfort level early. The best hope for crushing the chance of any building confidence is for Mario Williams to introduce himself with a crushing hit. Deliver a jarring blow early, and Smith might be worrying about the next one for the rest of the game. Allow for good protection early by Michael Roos and the Titans' line, and you allow Smith to scan downfield and find someone, inevitably, running open.
Protecting Garrard: The Jaguars have allowed 24 sacks this season. The Giants have recorded 27. If Jacksonville’s offensive line doesn’t pass protect well, the Jaguars will be in a lot of trouble. Greg Jones and Marcedes Lewis will need to play big roles. It’s a big day for the backups. Either Kevin Haslam or Guy Whimper will play for Eugene Monroe at left tackle. áJordan Blackáhas been the right tackle since Eben Britton went down and will see a lot of Justin Tuck. Fair or not, this game will do a lot for the national perception of the Jaguars. The Giants get as much coverage as anyone in the league and the Jaguars the least. If the Jaguars play well, a lot of people have no choice but to talk about it.
Twelve: At 6-4, the Colts need to win the remainder of their regular-season games to keep their streak of 12-win seasons alive. They’ve won at least a dozen games in seven consecutive years and have quite a lead on the second bestástreak (Dallas did it four times from 1992-1995). To keep the potential of the streak alive, and more importantly to assure the Colts remain in first place after the weekend, they have to break through against a team that’s been a serious problem recently. Since 2005, San Diego has fared better against Indianapolis than any other team, with a 4-1 record against the Colts, including the playoffs.
Johnson and Foster: The Titans are sure to lean heavily on Chris Johnson in Smith’s debut. If the pass game can be used to supplement a strong run effort, Tennessee won’t have to ask Smith to do too much. On the other side, the Texans have not played their best in the first half of games. The route to faring better there might be getting Arian Foster the ball more. He’s often looked like the best player on the field for Houston, but the Texans have struggled to find the right mix on offense, leaving themselves in position where they’ve had to mount some serious second-half comebacks.