1. Peyton Manning, Colts quarterback: Virtually everyone’s expecting a bounce-back Thursday night. But his three-game stretch with 11 interceptions, including four returned for touchdowns, has been horrid. Despite what he’s saying, he’s clearly pressing with no run game and so many inexperienced targets. He and the Colts should be a little more willing to just punt.
2. The Titans’ run game: Tennessee’s not pushing anyone around anymore and while Chris Johnson hasn’t gotten sufficient carries, he looks tentative. Success usually comes before swagger develops -- and the Titans have lost both in a department in which they were dominant a year ago. Interior line play by Leroy Harris, Eugene Amano and Jake Scott has been a particular concern.
3. Houston’s chances to improve on last year: They aren’t just falling, they’re gone. It’ll take a four-game winning streak just to match last season’s disappointing 9-7 and that would have to include wins over Baltimore and Jacksonville. Changes are ahead. The next month will probably determine just how big they are.
Rashad Jennings has emerged as a potent complement to Maurice Jones-Drew for the Jaguars.
1. Rashad Jennings, Jaguars running back:Maurice Jones-Drew is on fire, but the supplementary work from Jennings has been quite good as well. He’s got 17 carries for 97 yards and two touchdowns in Jacksonville’s last two games. He qualifies as a player who's helped turn the Jaguars into a first-place team.
2. Amobi Okoye, Texans defensive tackle: In his last two games, a guy who’s often gone too long without making noise has emerged. Against the Titans and Eagles, Okoye has been more disruptive, barging into the backfield and influencing quarterbacks. He also has 26 tackles this season, the most for a Houston defensive lineman.
3. Greg Jones, Jaguars fullback: Not to harp on the Jaguars’ run game, but as lead blocker for Jones-Drew and Jennings he’s been helping set the physical tone that’s given Jacksonville the most substantial identity of any team in the AFC South. He also took a short pass against Tennessee 11 yards up the right sideline, bowling over and embarrassing multiple defenders.