NFL Nation: Final Word AFC 2012 Week 17

Final Word: AFC South

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:

Playing at Indianapolis: The Houston Texans have never won in Indianapolis. They are 0-10 all-time on the road against the Indianapolis Colts. That’s tied for the most road losses against an opponent without a win in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. (The Minnesota Vikings are 0-10 at the Colts and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-7 at the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers.) But the Texans are a good road team this season. Houston is 6-1 away from home, the best road record in the NFL. Their lone road loss came in Week 14 at New England. Houston has won two straight road divisional games and is 4-1 in its last five divisional road games. Working against them: It’s going to be an incredibly emotional day for the Colts. They are locked in as the No. 5 seed in the playoffs while the Texans have home-field advantage and even a first-round bye at stake. But it’s Chuck Pagano’s first game back as coach since completing his treatment for leukemia.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesAndrew Luck has struggled recently -- completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes over the past four games.
Especially inaccurate: Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck has thrown for an NFL rookie record 4,183 yards this season. He ranks seventh in the NFL in passing yards. But he’s been especially inaccurate the last month, often missing his targets high. Luck has completed less than half of his passes in four consecutive games. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Luck and the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez, who did it earlier this season, are the only players in the last 10 seasons to complete less than half their passes in four straight games with at least 20 attempts in each game. Luck and the Colts have managed a 3-1 record in those games despite his struggles. Sanchez and the Jets went 1-3. Luck has had more of his passes defended (77) than any other quarterback in the league, 17 of which have been batted at the line of scrimmage. Houston has batted down 27 passes this year, more than any defense in the last four seasons.

Watt on the verge: Over the last three years, no NFL defender has had a more disruptive season than Houston defensive end J.J. Watt is having. Watt has disrupted a league-high 35.5 dropbacks this season. (A sack, a pick or a pass defended is considered a dropback disrupted.) Minnesota’s Jared Allen had the second-best season in the category in that time span with just 26 in 2011. Watt is 2.5 sacks away from a new single-season record and had three against the Colts in Week 15 in Houston. It’s a great matchup for Watt because Luck has had 135 of his dropbacks disrupted, 26 more than the next closest quarterback.

All-time worst: The Jacksonville Jaguars franchise is about to complete its worst season in history. If the Jaguars lose and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos, Jacksonville will draft first. Otherwise the Jaguars can do no worse than second. They drafted second in 1996 (linebacker Kevin Hardy) and 1995 (left tackle Tony Boselli). Jacksonville has won just twice this season, but one was a 24-19 win over the Titans at EverBank Field on Nov. 25. The Jags have won three of their last four against the Titans. A win would leave them with a 3-3 AFC South record, and the Titans would finish 0-6 in the AFC South.

Big numbers: Titans running back Chris Johnson needs 168 rushing yards in Week 17 to reach 7,000 career rushing yards. He would become the fourth player in NFL history to reach 7,000 career rushing yards in his first five seasons. Johnson enters the game against the Jaguars with the seventh-most rush yards ever by a player in his first five seasons, trailing only Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Emmitt Smith, Earl Campbell, Walter Payton and Eddie George.

Final Word: AFC West

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:

Broncos are dominating: The Broncos enter Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Chiefs as the NFL’s hottest team. The Broncos are 12-3 and have won 10 straight games, which is a current NFL high. The Broncos are ranked No. 3 on defense and No. 4 on offense in the NFL. They aren’t just winning, they are cruising. All 10 wins during their streak have come by seven points or more. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Denver is the fourth team in NFL history to win 10 or more consecutive games by at least a touchdown. The NFL record-holder is Peyton Manning's 2005 Colts. They won 13 straight games by at least a touchdown.

[+] EnlargeTurner
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesSunday's game will likely be Norv Turner's last as the head coach of the Chargers.
Winning for Norv? Last year, in the season finale, the Chargers thought they were sending Norv Turner out the right way with a win at Oakland. It knocked the Raiders out of the playoffs. And it was enough to impress Chargers owner Dean Spanos. He surprisingly kept Turner in part because of the way his players responded to him. This year, a third straight season with no playoff berth in San Diego, the Chargers are looking to win three of their final four games. Still, if the Chargers do beat Oakland at home, don’t expect it to help Turner. This is very, very likely his final game in San Diego.

Raiders have made penalty progress: The Raiders set NFL records for penalties and penalty yardage in 2011. When Dennis Allen took over, he said improving the penalty issue was a top priority. He preached discipline and Oakland started the season much improved in the area, but they have reverted to old habits as the season has gone on. Oakland isn’t terrible in the penalty department, but far from great. Oakland has committed 100 penalties -- tied for the eighth most in the NFL -- for 872 yards. It will continue to be an area of emphasis for Allen.

Chiefs are on cusp on top pick: The 2-13 Chiefs will secure the No. 1 overall pick in the draft with a loss to Denver or a Jacksonville win over Tennessee. The Chiefs hold the tiebreaker because they have played an easier schedule. The Chiefs have never owned the No. 1 pick in the common draft era. They owned the top pick in the AFL once and scored big. In 1963, the Chiefs took defensive tackle Buck Buchanan, who played 13 years for the Chiefs and went to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Broncos and Chiefs are different ends of spectrum: Denver is 5-0 in the AFC West and is looking for a division sweep. Kansas City is 0-5 in the division and even worse, 0-11 in the AFC.

Final Word: AFC East

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:

[+] EnlargeChan Gailey
AP Photo/Eric GayThe future of Buffalo coach Chan Gailey is murky entering the offseason.
Disappointment Bowl: The two most disappointing teams in the AFC East will face off in the regular-season finale. The Buffalo Bills will host the New York Jets, and both teams will have plenty of questions after the season. Will Buffalo fire head coach Chan Gailey? Will New York fire general manager Mike Tannenbaum? Will both teams find new quarterbacks? All of these questions will be up for discussion. But first, one of these teams must end on a high note. The Jets pounded the Bills in their first meeting in Week 1, 48-28. That seems like so long ago as both seasons went downhill.

Sanchez's success: New York's musical chairs routine at quarterback continued this week when Jets coach Rex Ryan named Mark Sanchez the starter. Former starter Greg McElroy had concussion-like symptoms and was pulled during the week. The good news is Sanchez has had more success against Buffalo than any other team in his four-year career. Sanchez is 6-1 all-time against the Bills, which includes a 48-28 thrashing of Buffalo in Week 1. This is a chance for Sanchez to finish strong during an otherwise awful season.

Tebow's role: The Tim Tebow era in New York is expected to end after Sunday's game in Buffalo. The disappointing experiment lasted just one season, and Tebow reportedly will play for his hometown Jacksonville Jaguars next season. But Tebow's role in the regular-season finale remains a mystery. Jets head coach Rex Ryan is playing coy, especially after last week's dustup that led to Jeremy Kerley taking over Tebow’s Wildcat package. Keep an eye on whether Tebow returns to his old role.

Bush for 1,000: Miami Dolphins tailback Reggie Bush needs just 40 yards against the New England Patriots to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Bush came to Miami to prove he can be an every-down back, and will enter free agency with the expectations to cash in. Bush is coming off one of his best games of the year. He had 107 total yards and three touchdowns, which includes two touchdown receptions. The Dolphins are using Bush more as a dual threat late in the season, and it is paying dividends.

Health is key: New England has to play Miami this weekend, but the Patriots' biggest concern is the following week in the postseason. New England can land anywhere between the No. 1 seed and No. 4 seed depending on the outcome of other games. The Patriots (11-4) have a shot at a first-round bye with a win and a loss by either the Houston Texans (12-3) or Denver Broncos (12-3). If not, the Patriots will host a game in the wild-card round and need to exit Sunday’s game against Miami in good health.

Final Word: AFC North

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:

[+] EnlargeRay Rice
Andrew Mills/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY SportsDon't be surprised to see the Ravens ride RB Ray Rice against the Bengals on Sunday.
Running wild: While it's unknown how much the Ravens starters will play, it's proven that Baltimore increases its chances of winning by giving the ball more to running back Ray Rice. After getting fewer than 25 touches in each game during the Ravens' three-game losing streak, Rice got 30 in the Week 16 win over the Giants. Since the Ravens drafted Rice in 2008, they are 23-3 in games in which he gets at least 25 touches, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Rice also is the key to success against the Bengals. He has run for 363 yards in his past three games against them, with 301 of those yards coming before initial contact. That’s the most rush yards before contact for any player against a single opponent since the start of the 2011 season.

Going for the elusive sweep: With a 20-14 win over the Steelers already under their belt, the Browns are looking for their first season sweep of Pittsburgh since 1988. How long ago is that? Cleveland running back Trent Richardson was 3 years old at that time, and the Browns' wins came at two places that no longer exist -- Three Rivers Stadium and Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Since that sweep, the Browns have gone 10-33 (.233) against the Steelers and have been swept by Pittsburgh 11 times.

Sophomore sizzle: Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green has 160 catches in his first two seasons, which is the fourth-most in NFL history. He needs nine catches against Baltimore to surpass Marques Colston for the most receptions during the first two seasons in the league. His 2,381 yards receiving is the sixth-most in a player's first two years in the NFL. With 116 yards receiving this past Sunday, Green has produced five games with at least 100 yards receiving this season. No player in Bengals history has ever had six such games in one season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Finishing strong: The Ravens and Steelers are among the best in the NFL when it comes to finishing off the regular season. Since 2000, Baltimore and Pittsburgh are 10-2 in the last game of the regular season. Only the Packers, who are 11-1, have a better record. In fact, the Steelers' only losses in the regular-season finale during that span have been to Baltimore. The Ravens have won six straight regular-season finales and 10 of their past 12 overall. The Packers and Chargers are the only other teams to win each of their past six regular-season finales.

Touchdown terror: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown 46 touchdown passes in 31 career games. The only quarterbacks who have passed for more in their first two seasons in the NFL are: Dan Marino (68), Peyton Manning (52) and Carson Palmer (50), according to ESPN Stats & Information. But, in three career games against Baltimore, Dalton has thrown one touchdown and four interceptions. His minus-3 touchdown-to-interception differential is his worst against any opponent, and his career passer rating against Baltimore is 63.8.

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