NFL Nation: Final Word AFC 2011 Week 10

Final Word: AFC South

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
1:31
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10

Scoring defense: The Colts have allowed at least 23 points in all nine of their games this season. If they give up 23 to the Jaguars, they will become the third team in the last 30 seasons to allow at least 23 points in their first 10 games of a season -- joining the 2010 Texans (10) and 1981 Baltimore Colts (15). The Jaguars are probably a prime candidate not to get to 23. Jacksonville is averaging just more than 12 points a game.

[+] EnlargeArian Foster
Brett Davis/US PresswireExpect running back Arian Foster to continue carrying the load for the Texans at Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Determined to run: The Texans' run game is their foundation this season. They lead the NFL in attempts per game at 34.8 and are second in rushing yards per game at 155.1. Arian Foster has not only been a dominant force in the backfield, he’s picked up the slack as a receiver in the absence of Andre Johnson with a league-best 285 yards after the catch since Week 5. Matt Schaub’s not been putting up big numbers, which is just fine, because the offense is doing so well with him handing off more than dropping back.

Contain Cam: The Titans just lost to rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and the Bengals. Now they see a different style of rookie quarterback in Cam Newton. He’s big and strong and can run effectively, but he’s done a nice job of being a throw-first quarterback. The Titans have not blitzed a lot, and the tendency against young quarterbacks is to try to confuse them with coverage. With a young quarterback who’s hard to bring down, that may be even more the case. But the Titans would be wise to throw some new blitzes into the mix. An interesting contrast -- Newton has the most completions in the league (24) on throws of more than 20 yards in the air this season while the Titans defense has allowed the fewest such completions (five).

Between the tackles: Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew has the most rushing yards in the league running between the tackles. His 457 yards give him a giant lead over Adrian Peterson (335). MJD has eight rushing touchdowns in 10 career games against the Colts. Indianapolis rookie defensive tackle Drake Nevis could be ready to return from a back injury, and the Colts should get a boost from him if he’s on the field.

Tampa Bay’s play-action: The Texans have intercepted the most passes (five) and allowed the fewest yards per attempt (5.0) on play-action passes this season. That tells me guys have been disciplined about not biting on fakes. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman has thrown the most interceptions (five) on play fakes this season. So this could be a nice match for Houston in that department. The pass rush could be limited, though, because the Buccaneers have protected Freeman rather well.

Final Word: AFC East

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Here are five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:

Battle in the trenches: If you're looking for a big-time matchup in Sunday's AFC East grudge match, look no further than the battle between New York Jets Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold and New England Patriots Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. These are two of the best at their positions, and both have a lot of respect for one another. It's no secret the Jets want to ground-and-pound New England's struggling defense. The winner of the Mangold-Wilfork matchup will have a lot of say in who wins this game.

[+] EnlargeShonn Greene
Richard Mackson/US PresswireJets running back Shonn Greene is averaging 4.82 yards per carry over the past two games.
Greene picking up steam: One of the biggest reasons for the Jets' turnaround is the increased production of starting tailback Shonn Greene. The third-year player has 188 rushing yards in New York's past two victories against the San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills. He is averaging 4.82 yards per carry in those games, well above his season average of 3.8 yards. Greene, a power back, is known for having his best games late in the season. The Jets hope he turns it on again in November and December to help New York make a playoff run.

Another week, another Ryan: The Bills get another tall task in facing Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. His twin brother, Rex Ryan, gave Buffalo's offense fits last week in a 27-11 trouncing by the Jets. Dallas also runs a 3-4 scheme with some similar concepts. The goal for the Cowboys is to pressure and confuse the quarterback. That happened last week to Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He had his worst game of the season against Rex Ryan's Jets defense, throwing for 191 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Homecoming for Jackson, Nelson: The Bills will have a homecoming in Texas for a pair of key players. Buffalo star tailback Fred Jackson grew up a Cowboys fan and was raised in Arlington, Texas, where Dallas' new mega stadium was built. Jackson is excited to return home and play against his childhood team. Bills receiver David Nelson also grew up Dallas. And here is an interesting wrinkle: Nelson's girlfriend is a Cowboys cheerleader.

Bringing life to Sun Life Stadium: Will the Miami Dolphins finally win a home game? Miami is 1-12 in its past 13 games at Sun Life Stadium and hasn't won at home since Nov. 14, 2010. The Dolphins (1-7) have a winnable game Sunday against the struggling Washington Redskins (3-5). Miami plays three of its next four at home and has a chance to gather some momentum.

Final Word: AFC North

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesAndy Dalton and the 6-2 Bengals host the 6-3 Steelers on Sunday.
Rough on rookies: The Pittsburgh Steelers look to continue their domination of rookie quarterbacks when they face the Bengals' Andy Dalton. Since Dick LeBeau returned as Steelers defense coordinator in 2004, rookie quarterbacks are 1-11 against the Steelers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The only rookie who has beaten Pittsburgh was Baltimore's Troy Smith in the 2007 regular-season finale, when the Steelers rested many of their starters. Pittsburgh has held rookies to a 62.8 passer rating with seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Ravens' Joe Flacco lost three times to the Steelers in his 2008 rookie season, and the Browns' Colt McCoy lost twice to Pittsburgh last year in his first NFL season.

Looking to avoid another trap: In John Harbaugh's first three seasons, the Ravens lost only once to a team with a losing record at the time. They've done it twice this season. After a season-opening rout of Pittsburgh, the Ravens fell flat in a loss at Tennessee. After a convincing Week 5 win over AFC South-leading Houston, Baltimore didn't show up in an upset loss at Jacksonville. Now, after another win over Pittsburgh, the Ravens insist they're not overlooking the 2-6 Seattle Seahawks. Harbaugh has referred to this disturbing trend as the Ravens' "Achilles' heel so far this season."

Getting run down: Over the past two weeks, running backs have gained 421 yards against the Browns, averaging 5.9 yards per carry and scoring three touchdowns. In comparison, Cleveland's entire offense has produced just 41 more yards during that time. Three running backs have reached 115 yards against the Browns in the past two losses, which is a concern in facing 1-7 St. Louis. Rams running back Steven Jackson is going for his third straight 100-yard game, which would tie the second-longest streak of his career (according to ESPN Stats & Information). Jackson, 6-2 and 236 pounds, is "bigger and stronger" than anyone the Browns have faced this season, Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron said.

Soaring from the start: Baltimore, which ranks second in scoring defense, is the only NFL team that has shut out every opponent this year on the opening drive. Baltimore has only allowed 13 points in the first quarter, which also leads the NFL. It would be a surprise to see the Ravens' shutout streak end in Seattle. The Seahawks have yet to score in the first quarter against three AFC North teams this season. The division has held Seattle to five points per game (one touchdown, three field goals).

Air attack: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for at least 300 yards in a franchise-record three straight games. He has 1,068 passing yards since Week 7, the most in the NFL during that span (according to ESPN Stats & Information). The Bengals' pass defense has been stingy, giving up eight touchdowns through the air, which is the third fewest in the league. The Bengals can take pride in the fact that they've allowed only one 300-yard passer this season. But that achievement is tarnished a bit when you learn that the quarterback who threw for 323 yards against Cincinnati was Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson.

Final Word: AFC West

November, 11, 2011
11/11/11
1:00
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 10:

[+] EnlargeKansas City's Matt Cassel
Dak Dillon/US PRESSWIREKansas City's Matt Cassel has completed 33 of 49 passes for 383 yards and two touchdowns on play-action plays.
Cassel excelling in play-action: The Broncos will have to try to find a way to limit Kansas City from executing play-action plays. Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel is eighth in the NFL in play-action passing, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Cassel has completed 33 of 49 passes (a solid 67.3 percent) for 383 yards and two touchdowns on play-action plays.

Denver’s receivers are not dynamic: The Chiefs’ secondary is not preparing for an overly explosive group of receivers. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Denver is 31st in the NFL in yards after the catch. Just 606 of its 1,515 receiving yards -- 40 percent -- have been gained after the catch.

No coaching drama: The Broncos-Chiefs first meeting of last year is most remembered for Kansas City coach Todd Haley pointing his finger at now-former Denver coach Josh McDaniels and refusing to shake his hand after a lopsided Denver win. I’d be shocked if Haley and new Denver coach John Fox engage in any shenanigans after Sunday’s game.

Can Denver continue QB-RB ground attack? The Broncos would love to have the same ground attack they enjoyed in Oakland last week. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Denver quarterback Tim Tebow and running back Willis McGahee became the first quarterback-running back combination to rush for 100-plus yards each since 2006, when Michael Vick (quarterback) and Jerious Norwood (running back) accomplished the feat. McGahee had 163 yards and Tebow had 117 yards.

Can Chiefs protect Arrowhead? If the Chiefs, 4-4, are going to stay in the AFC West race, they need to protect their home field better. Last week, the Chiefs were beaten, 31-3, by previously winless Miami at home. It was the second time this season that Kansas City lost at Arrowhead by at least 28 points. It’s been a recent problem. Kansas City has lost at home by at least 28 points four times since 2009. Before then, it had just one home loss by that many points in the history of Arrowhead Stadium.

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