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Tuesday, November 8, 2011
AFC South Stock Watch

By Paul Kuharsky

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FALLING

1. The Titans’ ability to play 60 minutes: They turned a 10-point lead into a 7-point loss Sunday at LP Field against the Cincinnati Bengals. Afterward they talked of their failures to execute and make plays. I hope they did a thorough dissection of why they couldn’t do anything after intermission, because more incomplete efforts like that one will absolutely doom them as they prepare for three in a row against the NFC South.

2. Curtis Painter, Indianapolis Colts quarterback: He had a couple performances that were good enough for a team to win with, but those seem like ancient history now. The Colts have a lot of issues and the defense is probably the biggest. But Painter was bad enough on Sunday in the loss to Atlanta to get pulled in favor of Dan Orlovsky late in the game. When your average per pass play is smaller than your rushing average, you’ve got major issues.

3. Expectations for the Jaguars on Sunday: Scan the Colts schedule and look for the game they might win and a lot of people point to the one against the Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. Jacksonville opened as field-goal favorites, and I don’t know if that’s insulting or not. But the Jaguars will hear a lot this week about how they may be susceptible to a winless division foe. Will they fall into the trap or puff out their chests and storm into town to prove that although they may be struggling themselves, they are at a different level than Indianapolis?

RISING

Houston Texans rookie linebacker Brooks Reed
Houston Texans rookie linebacker Brooks Reed is playing well in his increased role.
1. Brooks Reed, Houston Texans outside linebacker: There is no replacing Mario Williams. But Reed’s the guy getting the playing time with the defensive ace lost for the season, and he’s doing well. Against Cleveland he sacked quarterback Colt McCoy twice and was a big part of the active defensive front. He’s a high-energy guy, a second-round draft pick who clearly fits into what the Texans want to do. He should continue to be a factor as he gets better, and because he didn’t play a ton early on, perhaps any rookie wall issues will be postponed.

2. Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans cornerback: He was super active on Sunday in the Titans’ loss to Cincinnati. He got his hands on balls, he forced quick throws as he blitzed. Finnegan’s been a solid force for Tennessee all season. He’s in a contract year, and he’s a standout on a defense lacking another consistently impactful player.

3. The chances for the Colts to go winless: For a stretch they were in games to the end. The losses to Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and even Cincinnati were palatable. But the last three to New Orleans, Tennessee and Atlanta have been pitiful. If they were showing some signs of improvement, it’d be one thing. Although some people regard Sunday against Jacksonville the best remaining chance (see above), the Jaguars' defense may simply snuff out any chance of a breakthrough. I still think they win one almost by accident, but scan the schedule and tell me -- which one?