1. Jacob Lacey, Indianapolis Colts cornerback: Lacey is ideally a dime guy, maybe a nickel. But the Colts married themselves to him as their No. 2 starter right after the lockout in a move many of us still struggle to understand. Lately they’ve been using Terrence Johnson some. Sunday in Cincinnati it sure seemed like they went with Lacey early and then pulled him for Johnson. If there was anyone on the roster who was capable of putting real pressure on Lacey, he’d have to get some time on the bench to get his game together. Drew Brees will look his way and see red meat.
2. Rashean Mathis, Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback: In a poor first half for the Jaguars in Pittsburgh, Mathis was exceptionally noticeable. He had a crack at a hit that would have prevented a Rashard Mendenhall touchdown run, got stiff-armed out of another run play, he dropped a ball I thought he could have picked and was in defense on a touchdown pass to Mike Wallace (yes he’s tough to defend, but still). Mathis is a quality leader and a quality guy. He told the team after the game that it’s on the cusp of winning a game. They may be, but he’s one of the guys who’s got to do better to make it happen.
3. Leroy Harris and Eugene Amano, Tennessee Titans interior offensive linemen: Mike Munchak’s team has been very good in pass protection, which is why Matt Hasselbeck’s been able to be such a significant story. But run blocking is an issue, and these two guys are the root of it. Munchak is steadfastly loyal to the group that started for him last season when he was offensive line coach, but asked recently if he was considering any line changes, his answer wasn’t “no,” it was “not yet.” That’s as close as this pair may come to getting put on notice. Fernando Velasco is the one legitimate alternative on the bench.
1. Tim Jamison, Houston Texans defensive end: As the Texans started life without injured outside linebacker Mario Williams, Jamison exploded with a big first-half performance: two sacks, including one that forced a fumble he recovered that set up a touchdown. It was an impressive showing, and it’s the sort of effort from a member of the supporting cast that the Texans can really use. Gary Kubiak said he sees Jamison as a young Antonio Smith. That’s high praise considering what a player Smith is.
2. The Tennessee Titans’ health: Coming off a bye, the Titans appear pretty healthy. Safety Chris Hope (arm) is out for a long stretch. Backup linebacker and special-teamer Colin McCarthy (hamstring) may be the only other issue. If tight end Craig Stevens (ribs) is feeling better, things will be looking up for the Titans. And considering the Texans just played the very physical Ravens and have a banged-up quarterback in Matt Schaub, it’s a nice advantage to have.
3. Indianapolis’ pass protection: The Colts have scrambled to patch things together with a bunch of injured guys, but quarterback Curtis Painter has gone over 100 pass attempts without an interception and he’s had time the past few games to make his reads and make his throws. Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne have been beneficiaries. This line’s taken a beating when things have been bad, and run blocking is no strength. But the group is stepping up to give the young quarterback a chance.