Friday, December 2, 2011
Final Word: AFC South
By Paul Kuharsky
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 13:
Keep away: The Bills are an excellent turnover team -- they’ve gotten 16 picks and recovered six fumbles this season. And they make a habit out of turning turnovers into points. Matt Hasselbeck has had a lot of balls tipped at the line this season, and those are the kinds of passes that can turn into big plays. Although the Titans won’t want Hasselbeck to be overly cautious a week after surviving four giveaways in a win over Tampa Bay, they won’t get away with a similar performance.
Despite Atlanta's stout run defense, the Texans will likely lean heavily on Arian Foster and the ground game Sunday.
Run-stoppers: Although the Texans will ask T.J. Yates to make some throws to keep the Falcons honest, they will want to base their offense on handoffs to Arian Foster and Ben Tate. The Falcons' rush defense, however, ranks second in rushing yards allowed per game at 83.5. They have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Jonathan Stewart had 133 for the Panthers in Week 14 of last season. That’s 14 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher.
Outscored: The Colts are the eighth team to start the season 0-11 since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978. Should the Colts lose in New England, they would become the sixth team to start 0-12. The 1986 Colts lost their first 12 and still wound up with three wins. These Colts have been outscored by 177 points. The only team to get outscored by more points in its first 11 games over the last 30 years was the 2008 Rams. Will Mike Murphy make much of a difference as the new coordinator of Indianapolis’ besieged defense? How will Indy look to defend the very dangerous tight end Rob Gronkowski? To have any chance of staying close, they'll need to find a way to slow him.
Tough sell: The combined win percentage of the Chargers and Jaguars entering this game is .318 (7-15). According to Elias, it’s the worst combined win percentage for two teams entering a "Monday Night Football" game this late in a season since the Ravens (4-9) and Packers (3-10) met in Week 15 of 2005. So it’s not a game with playoff implications. But two bad teams could be evenly matched and provide a close game. Jacksonville’s got some new life with a coaching change, and San Diego is still dealing with the pressure on Norv Turner, who appears destined to be fired. After a week of huge change, the Jaguars really need to come out riled up and start big.
Bonus nuggets: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has thrown 10 interceptions this season as a result of an over- or underthrown pass, the most off-target interceptions in the NFL. Jacksonville’s inexperienced corners, Will Middleton and Ashton Youboty could benefit from that … Yates is the fifth quarterback in the last 25 years to take over a team on a winning streak of five games or more. Caleb Hanie lost for the Bears last year, Bill Musgrave lost for the Broncos in 1996, Jason Garrett won for Dallas in 1993 and Doug Flutie won for Chicago in 1986 … With a win Sunday against the Colts, Tom Brady would break a tie with Johnny Unitas and move into sole possession of sixth place on the all-time regular season wins list by a starting quarterback with 120.