NFL Nation: Kevin Hardy

Final Word: AFC South

December, 28, 2012
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.

Double duty for Joe Vitt

July, 24, 2012
New Orleans assistant head coach Joe Vitt already is in a unique position. He’s been running things with coach Sean Payton suspended for the season, although Vitt also will serve a six-game suspension at the start of the season.

But things will get even more unique for Vitt on Thursday. That’s the day the Saints take the field for the first time this training camp.

Vitt’s got one other obligation going on that same day. As he addressed the local media Tuesday evening, Vitt revealed he’ll be leaving the team’s facility for a bit on Thursday. He plans to testify on behalf of linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is scheduled to have a hearing on his attempt to get an injunction on his season-long suspension. Vitt previously filed an affidavit on Vilma's behalf.

On an actual football note, the Saints announced they have agreed to terms with tight end Derek Schouman and signed receiver Marques Clark, while waiving receiver Kevin Hardy. That puts New Orleans’ roster at 90 players.

Best Jaguars Team Ever: 1999

June, 29, 2010
Notable Players: WR Jimmy Smith, OT Tony Boselli, RB Fred Taylor, QB Mark Brunell, DE Tony Brackens, LB Kevin Hardy, S Donovin Darius

[+] EnlargeTony Brackens
AP Photo/Roberto BoreaTony Brackens made big plays for the 1999 Jaguars, including a team-record 12 sacks.
Analysis: The Jaguars have only 15 years of history, and choosing their best edition isn’t difficult. The 1999 club lost three games all season, all to the Tennessee Titans, with the third in the AFC Championship Game in Jacksonville.

Their ace running back was Taylor, who missed six regular-season games because of injury. He returned to turn in two 100-yard rushing games in the postseason.

Jacksonville had seven Pro Bowlers that season. After earning a bye with its 14-2 regular season, it waltzed to a 62-7 win over Miami in its first playoff game. James Stewart, who started seven games with Taylor hurt, scored 13 rushing touchdowns and Jimmy Smith pulled in 116 balls for 1,636 yards -- both still franchise records.

Brackens’ 12 sacks remain in place as the team’s single-season record. The 2009 Jaguars had 14 sacks total.

Most impressive win: Of the teams the Jaguars beat, only the Dolphins had a winning record. Only Carolina, the Jets, and Baltimore finished 8-8. Can you pick?

Research room: The 1999 Jaguars are one of four teams since 1999 to win at least 14 regular-season games and not reach the Super Bowl -- along with San Diego in 2006 (14-2), Indianapolis in 2005 (14-2), and Pittsburgh (15-1) in 2004.

Honorable mentions:

2007: A 11-5 record with an upset playoff win at nemesis Pittsburgh before a loss at eventual AFC Champion New England made for a surprisingly successful year.

1998: The AFC Central champions wound up 11-5, with a playoff win over New England before a road loss to the Jets.

1996: In only their second season on the field, the Jaguars got into the playoffs at 9-7 as the fifth seed thanks to tiebreakers with Indianapolis and Kansas City. They pulled upsets at Buffalo and at Denver before losing at New England in the AFC Championship Game.