Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8:
Full effort: The Jaguars have struggled in the second half this season. To win at Reliant Stadium that means they’ll have to change the trend or jump ahead early. Jacksonville’s not had its bye yet but still has the fewest second-half points in the league (29). They are 30th in point-differential (minus-46) and 31st in yards per game (132.4). The defense and running game need to carry over what they did against Baltimore in the Monday night upset, while Blaine Gabbert has to do a lot more in the passing game.
Foster and more Foster: Arian Foster was fantastic last week, topping 100 yards rushing and receiving and scoring three touchdowns. ESPN Stats & Information says he’s averaging 4.0 yards a carry over the last two seasons against defenses with eight men in the box. The Texans would be wise to continue their patient approach with ailing star receiver Andre Johnson (hamstring) and continue to rely heavily on Foster. With Johnson out, Foster’s been targeted 20 times, the most of any Houston player. Only Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings, Jimmy Graham and Steve Smith of Carolina have more than Foster’s 287 receiving yards over the past three weeks.
Another run-game factor: Chris Johnson’s struggles running the ball for the Titans have been a giant story. We’ve talked extensively about his shortcomings and the potential for changes on the line. But tight ends have been big for him when things have gone well, too. Craig Stevens took over for Alge Crumpler as the team’s primary blocking tight end last year. But Stevens is dealing with a rib injury and there is only so much he can do given the level of pain he has to deal with. It’s hard to heal when you’re constantly getting hit in the area in question. Watch him and see if he’s able to take people on and if he’s less effective later in the game.
Scoring defense woes: The Colts have allowed at least 23 points in all seven of their games this season. If they give up 23 to the Titans, they will become the second team in the last 30 seasons to allow at least 23 points in their first eight games of a season, joining the 2010 Texans. How to slow the bleeding? Well, they’re giving up touchdowns 63.3 percent of the time opponents get inside their 20-yard line. There seems to be little to lose by playing more aggressively with tighter coverage close to their goal line. It can’t be much worse.
Double division action: With two head-to-head division matchups, the standings will tell us a lot come Sunday night. Houston can pull away, or allow the Jaguars to be right in the mix. The Titans can rebound and stay close to the top, or be part of Indianapolis’ first win and come out of things in third place. Labeling contenders and pretenders will be easier after we see how these two play out.