Friday, December 17, 2010
Final Word: AFC South
By Paul Kuharsky
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15:
Will the Jags be ready to handle the pressure? The Jacksonville-Indianapolis matchup is a super high-stakes game -- win and the Jaguars clinch the division. Only 14 players on Jacksonville’s roster were around in 2007 when the team went two rounds into the playoffs as a wild card. The rest haven’t faced this sort of pressure before. Will a young team thrive in such a situation and show the kind of resolve that has gotten it here?
Can the Titans force a turnover? You’d think a tipped ball that a defender could catch would arrive eventually. But the Titans have gone three games without a takeaway and haven’t won the turnover battle since Halloween. Where are the plays from young guys they were counting on such as Stephen Tulloch and Gerald McRath? They need to do more than tackle.
Matt Schaub can't dwell on the pick-six that ended the Ravens-Texans game.
Which Matt Schaub shows up at LP Field? Will it be the one who finished Monday night with a game-losing interception against Baltimore in overtime or the one who was phenomenal in rallying his team with two late touchdown drives of 99 and 95 yards? The Titans are not rushing the passer like they did earlier in the season, and given time I expect Schaub to find room to operate. I also expect TE Owen Daniels to be more reliable for Schaub in his second game back from a long injury layoff.
Do the Colts get a boost from a couple of key returnees? After injury layoffs, it seems like Austin Collie will be back in action on offense and Kelvin Hayden should rejoin the defense. They can both be difference-makers and help settle down things on their sides of the ball. Collie’s a dependable security blanket for Peyton Manning and Hayden had been playing better before a neck injury put him on the sideline.
Will Kerry Collins make some downfield connections? The Texans have been horrible on pass defense and now their best pass-rusher, Mario Williams, is out of the picture. The group gained confidence by shutting out Tennessee on Nov. 28 when rookie Rusty Smith was at the helm. Collins should fare better, particularly if the offensive line can protect him and allow room for him to step into throws. WRs Nate Washington and Justin Gage need to show why they will get on the field ahead of Randy Moss.