Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL Nation [Print without images]

Friday, December 23, 2011
Final Word: AFC South

By Paul Kuharsky

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16:

On pace to be rushing king: No Jaguar has ever led the NFL in rushing, but Maurice Jones-Drew is atop the leader board now with 1,334 yards. He needs 239 rush yards in his final two games to top Fred Taylor’s franchise single-season record set in 2003 — and is just 57 yards off his career best of 1,391 from 2009. He carried 24 times for 97 yards in the Jaguars’ 16-14 Week 1 victory Tennessee at EverBank Field. Jacksonville came into the season talking about monitoring Jones-Drew so he’d still be close to full strength at the end. He’s taken a very heavy load and is still going strong.

Maurice Jones-Drew
Maurice Jones-Drew is closing in on some milestones -- and maybe an NFL rushing title.
Four times 1,000: Titans running back Chris Johnson needs 70 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. He topped 1,000 yards each of his first three NFL seasons. In careers that began since 2000, only four players have had four 1,000-yard seasons in their first four NFL years: Adrian Peterson, Clinton Portis, LaDainian Tomlinson and Jamal Lewis. Johnson’s been very inconsistent this year, with more bad than good. He averaged 3.0 yards per rush in his past two games and 7.5 yards per rush in the two games before that.

Trouble to mull: The Texans come out of their second consecutive loss with a couple big issues, but none that outranks their dwindling scoring production. Since Matt Schaub went down, Houston is averaging 17.2 points in five games. With Schaub, that number was 27.3. Although the defense can handle some dropoff, 10 fewer points per game dramatically slices the margin for error. If the Texans have a bad defensive drive like they did at the end in Indianapolis, they might not survive it -- in the finale against the Titans or in their first playoff game a week or two later.

Riding a wave: The Colts are peaking late with two victories in a row. Even if they win Jan. 1 in Jacksonville, the late surge won’t mean that a healthy Peyton Manning will fix everything. A big finish shouldn’t wash away all the concerns that became obvious during the 0-13 start, but it might make a case for the survival of the defensive system and perhaps for Mike Murphy to remain in place as the coordinator.

Also: The Jaguars need to win one of their final two games to avoid matching the worst record in franchise history. They were 4-12 in 1995, their first season in NFL. …Blaine Gabbert’s Total QBR of 20.4 is the league’s lowest. … The Titans can be eliminated from playoff contention this week -- most simply with a loss and either a Bengals or Jets win or tie. … The Jags have six sacks in their last five games, which is one more than the Titans have had in the same span. Veteran Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck handles pressure better than rookie Gabbert will.