NFL Nation: Final Word AFC 2012 Week 4

Final Word: AFC South

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

Knowing what’s coming: The Texans are the only team dropping back to pass (including sacks and scrambles) on fewer than 50 percent of their plays this season (46.3 percent). Typically an opponent would intend to stop the run and force the pass. But it seems dangerous for the Titans to want to defend the pass, considering how they’ve been giving up plays. But a defense still wants to get into pass-rush situations. On the other side, the Titans have dropped back to pass a league-high 75.9 percent of the time this season. That’s got to make the quality rushers along the Houston defensive front salivate.

[+] EnlargeBlaine Gabbert
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireBlaine Gabbert and the Jaguars hope to get their passing game going against the soft Bengals.
In need of a jolt: Perhaps the game-winning 80-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to Cecil Shorts on Sunday in Indianapolis will have some sort of carryover effect for the Jaguars. If the Bengals' three-game sample is any indication, the Jaguars should be able to find pass plays in this matchup. The Bengals are allowing 34 points per game and 416.7 yards per game. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Cincinnati is one of three teams that has not intercepted a pass this season, and that was an issue last season when they had 10 interceptions. Jacksonville's Laurent Robinson is probably out after suffering a concussion. Struggling Justin Blackmon, Shorts, Mike Thomas and Kevin Elliott need to make some plays.

Don’t overthink it: I think the timing of the Colts' bye invites them to overanalyze the state of things. Coming off a difficult, last-minute loss to Jacksonville is tough. But they can’t let it have more of a bearing on them than it should. They come off the bye to face Green Bay, a team that will be very difficult to defend, given the Colts' coverage issues. Indianapolis has added cornerback Darius Butler, and it has two guys rehabbing injuries: starter Vontae Davis and nickelback Justin King. Those guys healing up might be the most important issue for the team during a weekend off.

Coverage issues: If Houston cornerback Johnathan Joseph (groin) doesn’t play and is replaced by Alan Ball, that certainly will help the Titans. But then, Tennessee could be without Kenny Britt (ankle). Joseph covers the top wide receiver, so he likely would draw Britt a great deal. The drop-off from Joseph to Ball should be bigger than the drop-off from Britt to Kendall Wright, but that’s mostly about how good Joseph is. Joseph is likely the Texans' most indispensable player, but this is a matchup they can win without him if necessary.

Also: The Texans seek the first 4-0 NFL start in the city’s history. They’ve never done it, and the franchise never did it in its 37 seasons in Houston as the Oilers, either. … Gabbert has led the Jaguars on two go-ahead drives in the fourth quarter this season, and he is one of three quarterbacks with at least 50 pass attempts not to have thrown an interception. … Houston's Andre Johnson needs 132 receiving yards for 10,000. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, if Johnson gets there this week, he would become the sixth-fastest to 10,000 yards (in terms of games played; this is his 126th).

Final Word: AFC West

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

Chargers have had trouble in new Arrowhead: Sunday will be the Chargers’ third trip to Kansas City since Arrowhead Stadium was renovated. The first two games have been disasters for San Diego. In 2010, in a Monday-night season-opener, the Chiefs beat the Chargers in a monsoon. Last year, in another Monday-night game (on Halloween), San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers dropped a snap with the Chargers primed to kick a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of a game that Chiefs would take in overtime. Yes, it’s a new season, but the Chargers have to be wondering what can go wrong this year at Arrowhead.

[+] EnlargeJamaal Charles
AP Photo/Jonathan BachmanOne can hardly blame new Chiefs coach Andy Reid for being eager to work with RB Jamaal Charles.
Charles thrives on the outside: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles run for 233 yards in a Week 3 victory over New Orleans, and did most of his damage outside the tackles. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Charles averaged 11 yards per carry on 11 carries outside of the tackles in Week 3 -- another sign he is recovered from a torn ACL he suffered last year. Charles led the NFL in yards outside the tackles in 2010. Watch for San Diego to try to limit that this week.

Will Raiders blitz Manning? The Raiders haven’t had much of a pass rush this season. But I’m sure they were inspired by what Houston, which has a great pass rush, did to Manning on Sunday. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Manning completed just 37.5 percent of his passes when the Texans rushed five or more defenders. In the first two games, Manning was very good against the blitz, completing 65.2 percent of his passes.

Will Allen enjoy his Denver homecoming? New Oakland coach Dennis Allen returns to Denver, where he was the Broncos' defensive coordinator last year. The Raiders are trying to win in Denver for the fifth consecutive time; that would be the Raiders’ longest win streak in Denver since they took eight straight there from 1965-1972. One way Oakland can increase its chances if Carson Palmer completes a pass thrown longer than 20 yards. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Palmer is 0-for-8 on such throws this season.

Chiefs would like to find the lead: The Chiefs are 1-2. Their win over New Orleans was secured in overtime, ending when Ryan Succop's field goal went through the uprights. Thus, a strange streak continues: According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Chiefs have never had the lead during any game this season -- the only team in the league with that distinction. One of the reasons is the Chiefs’ inability to score a touchdown on their first drive. They haven’t done it this year, or at any point last season.

Final Word: AFC North

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

[+] EnlargeAndy Dalton
AP Photo/Alex BrandonAndy Dalton has the fourth-highest passer rating in the league after three weeks of play.
No sophomore slump: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is on quite a tear in his second season in the NFL. In going against Jacksonville and the league's 21st-ranked pass defense this Sunday, Dalton is shooting for his third straight game with 300 yards passing. In his previous two games, he has completed 74 percent of his passes (43 of 58) with six touchdowns and two interceptions. Dalton leads the league with a 158.3 passer rating in the fourth quarter, which happens to be the perfect passer rating. He is having a much better start than Carolina's Cam Newton, last year's NFL offensive rookie of the year.

Getting the defense on track: There will be reason to start worrying about the Bengals' defense if it continues its decline at Jacksonville. Cincinnati, a top-10 defense in points and yards allowed a year ago, is giving up 34 points and 416.7 yards per game. The Bengals get a chance to right themselves against the Jaguars, who are averaging 17.3 points per game. Only two teams (Dallas and Philadelphia) have scored fewer through three games this year.

Green's encore: Wide receiver A.J. Green has been a model of consistency in terms of catches. He has at least five receptions in his first five games of the season. His challenge Sunday is following up his 183-yard performance from a week ago. Last season, Green averaged 57.7 yards receiving in the games following a 100-yard performance. He ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards per game (103.7) and is tied for eighth in the league in receptions (21).

Interception drought: The Bengals are one of three teams who have not intercepted a pass this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. This has been an ongoing problem for Cincinnati. The Bengals only picked off 10 passes last season, which was tied for sixth-fewest in the NFL. It could be difficult to get one Sunday. Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert hasn't been intercepted this season (79 pass attempts). Plus, cornerbacks Leon Hall (hamstring) and Nate Clements (calf) are battling injuries and won't be at full strength if they play.

Bounce back for the running back: BenJarvus Green-Ellis is disappointed that he fumbled Sunday, the first time that has happened in his five-year career. He had gone 589 touches without coughing up the ball. One of the reasons that Cincinnati chose not to re-sign Cedric Benson was his fumbling problems late last season. Green-Ellis can redeem himself against the Jaguars, who are giving up 154.3 yards on the ground per game. Where Green-Ellis does most of his damage is in the red zone. He has scored 13 rushing touchdowns in his last 19 games.

Final Word: AFC East

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Here are five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

[+] EnlargeKarlos Dansby
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireDolphins linebacker Karlos Dansby is amped up to play his former team, the Cardinals, on Sunday.
Dansby homecoming: It has been two years since the Miami Dolphins outbid the Arizona Cardinals in free agency for linebacker Karlos Dansby. Miami needed an impact player and signed Dansby, a former Cardinal, to a $43 million contract in 2010. Dansby will play his former team for the first time Sunday when Miami travels to Arizona. The Cardinals (3-0) are one of the surprise teams in the NFL. The Dolphins (1-2) are rebuilding and trying to avoid a two-game losing streak. Dansby is hyped for his homecoming and called this a "must-win" game for Miami.

Tannehill's accuracy: One of the underlying struggles in Miami's offense has been the lack of accuracy from rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The No. 8 pick was a 62.5 percent career passer in college. However, Tannehill has been off the mark in his first three NFL starts. Tannehill is completing just 52.9 percent of his passes, which included a 16-for-36 (44.4 percent) performance in Sunday's overtime loss to the New York Jets. Sometimes drops play a factor. But Tannehill also rushes his reads and stares down his receivers too often, which is typical for a rookie. Miami needs its quarterback to get better in those areas to take the next step.

Williams vs. Brady: The Buffalo Bills gave former Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams $100 million in free agency for games like Sunday's. Buffalo needs a big performance from Williams pressuring Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to pull off the upset at home. Williams is coming off his best game of the season, against the Cleveland Browns in Week 3. He recorded four tackles and 1.5 sacks. Williams had been mostly quiet until that point. Buffalo's defensive line appears to have a favorable matchup against New England. Brady already has been sacked seven times in three games.

Ridley's dry spell: New England starting running back Stevan Ridley started the season hot with 125 yards rushing in Week 1. But since then, Ridley has just 108 yards rushing the past two weeks. Ridley's opportunities are down, but so are his yards per carry. Ridley averaged just 3.5 yards per rush in losses to the Cardinals and Ravens. The second-year player needs to get back to his Week 1 form.

Run over: What has happened to the Jets' run defense? This was a group expected to be a top-five defense. Yet, through three games, teams are running through New York's front seven with unexpected ease. The Jets are 28th against the run, allowing 148.7 rushing yards per game. Their run defense will face another stern test Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. Tailback Frank Gore has rushed for 264 yards and averages 5.9 yards per carry.

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