NFL Nation: Reeie Nelson

How I See It: AFC South Stock Watch

December, 29, 2009
12/29/09
11:01
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

1. Jaguars pass defense: Free safety Reggie Nelson was benched in favor of Anthony Smith, but that was hardly a shake-up that produced a big effect. A combination of a toothless rush and loose coverage helped assure the Jaguars dropped to 7-8 in New England.

Tom Brady completed 23 of 26 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns while Randy Moss ran open for big plays and Wes Welker caught all 13 balls that came his way. Not only wasn’t Brady sacked, but game statisticians didn’t credit the Jaguars with a quarterback hit.

2. Jim Caldwell, Colts coach: His team's bizarre Sunday give-up against the Jets shines a bright spotlight on Indianapolis’ first-year coach. He’s made all the right moves in getting to 14-0, and his team needs to believe this was a correct one for the long term, even if it hurt in the present.

Not trying doesn’t seem to benefit the team in anyone’s eyes, and what if they don’t win that Super Bowl? Won’t we point back at the Jets' game as a spot where the possibility crept into the Colts’ consciousness?

3. Vince Young, Titans QB: The finale in Seattle is a big game for Young, who surely wants to head into the offseason feeling better about his game than he did after a miserable performance against San Diego on Christmas night.

He completed 38 percent of his passes for 89 yards, nothing longer than 15, with two interceptions, no TDs and an 11.9 passer rating. As good as he’s been since taking over for Kerry Collins, a performance like that showed why some may still have doubts.

Johnson
Don McPeak/US PresswireChris Johnson needs 128 yards next week to reach 2,000 yards for the season.
Rising

1. Chris Johnson, Titans RB: The Chargers did great work against the Titans, and still Johnson managed 142 rushing yards and another 37 receiving. While his touches have gone up, he’s shown no signs of wearing down.

On a Sunday when six AFC games have playoff implications, Titans-at-Seahawks won’t be one of them. But the game will still draw a lot of interest anyway because Johnson’s got a shot at 2,000 rushing yards, the record for yards from scrimmage, and even Eric Dickerson’s all-time record.

2. Brian Cushing, Texans OLB: The rookie is nicked up, but you can’t really see it on Sundays. Against Miami he didn’t look like a beat-up, worn-down first-year player. He looked like Houston’s best defender.

Game statisticians gave him nine tackles to go with his sack and interception. He showcased the versatile game that made him the guy the Texans spent the 15th pick in the draft on.

3. Arian Foster, Texans RB: We’ve crushed the Texans for their failures in the run game, so Foster deserves credit for making the most of his chance in a crucial game against Miami. Nineteen carries for 97 yards, a 5.1-yard average and a touchdown amounted to a fine day.

And if the Texans are to beat AFC East champ New England Sunday, odds are they will force the Texans to run it. Fisher looks to be first in line for carries in that scenario and beyond if there is a playoff berth.

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