Defending Manning: As quarterback of the Colts, Peyton Manning owned the Texans. He’s with a different franchise now, so that past success doesn’t mean a lot, and he has not played against the Texans with Wade Phillips as their defensive coordinator. (Here’s how he has done against Phillips-coached defenses.) Against Houston, ESPN Stats and Info tells us Manning is 16-2 with 42 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Since the 1970 merger, Manning’s 16-2 record is the third-best by any starting quarterback against a single team, with a minimum of 15 games played against that team. Ben Roethlisberger against the Browns and Tom Brady against the Bills are better. More of note on Manning: He has not been great bouncing back from three-interception games, with an 8-7 record and 26 TDs versus 23 picks. He has not been great in the middle of the field so far, so he could really look to test the Texans’ second outside cornerback, Kareem Jackson.
Jacksonville's Derek Cox could cause headaches for Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
Better coverage:Derek Cox is the Jaguars' best guy in coverage, but he has been out so far with a hamstring injury from the preseason. It looks like he could return in at least a limited role. Jacksonville needs him. After three picks in Week 1 against the Bears, Indy’s rookie quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t throw one against the Vikings. He has done well to establish connections with Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery. Cox could help mess with that, while alleviating some pressure on the other cornerbacks who would face less pressure in big situations. Cox healthy and contributing can be a difference-maker for the pass defense.
Interior space: The Texans don’t necessarily have to run well between the tackles to win, but it certainly helps their offense. ESPN Stats and Info says that with a change at right guard and right tackle from last season, Houston isn’t finding the interior space it did last season. The Broncos are allowing 2.8 yards per rush between the tackles this season, the fifth-best defense of that area in the NFL. The Texans are down 1.2 yards per rush, and nearly 1 yard after contact per rush on runs between the tackles so far this season. And in 2011 they had 11 runs of 20 yards or better in the middle of the field. So far this season they have none.
Pushed around: There are all kinds of stats and analysis floating around about how much penetration the Patriots and Chargers got from their defensive fronts in their routs of the Titans. Tennessee’s offensive line is clearly having issues, particularly with run-blocking. And it will be hard to solve those against a tough Detroit front built around Ndamukong Suh. “We are what we are, and we’re doing a good job in the pass-pro and the protection,” offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said. “Everybody has a trait that is either a strength or a weakness. You try to play to those strengths.” That’s as close as anyone not named Chris Johnson has come to talking about the offensive line as an issue.
Also: If the Titans stick with their preoccupation with minimizing big plays, Calvin Johnson will catch passes in front of them and then run over, through or around them … A touchdown for Maurice Jones-Drew would be the 63rd of his career, and move him ahead of Fred Taylor for the franchise’s all-time lead … A touchdown for Wayne would pull him into a tie for third in Colts’ history. Edgerrin James is third with 75, and will have his name added to the team’s ring of honor in a pregame ceremony … Of the six 2-0 teams in the NFL, the Texans have beaten the teams who were worst in 2011. While the 49ers beat two teams that were a combined 25-7 in 2011, Houston’s two wins have come against teams that were 11-21.