Here are some of the whispers that we've been hearing from around the AFC South:
• When MLB Gary Brackett returned to the starting lineup against Dallas in Week 13 after missing the previous three games with a toe injury, it was clear that he was not healthy. Brackett, an integral part of the Colts' Tampa-2 scheme, depends so much on his great speed to make plays, and he was still slowed by turf toe. But in the past couple of weeks, Brackett has returned to his Pro Bowl form, spearheading the defense's successful efforts to shut down two of the league's top running backs, Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden.
• The way we hear it, one position that's a clear offseason need for Houston is free safety, where neither Eugene Wilson nor Troy Nolan has played especially well. At strong safety, Bernard Pollard regressed after helping key Houston's defensive improvement a season ago but has shown he is most effective — and sometimes a difference maker — playing closer to the line of scrimmage. The Texans also have some decisions to make at cornerback. Rookie Kareem Jackson has had a forgettable first NFL season, and second-year pros Brice McCain and Glover Quin had disappointing years.
• One Jaguars player whose performance has not waned in recent weeks is SLB Daryl Smith. The franchise's all-time leader in tackles, Smith is playing some of the best football of his career, the way we hear it.
• The Colts' offensive line deserves some of the credit for the team's running game getting on track. Mike Pollak, who lost his starting job for three games in November, is really starting to find his groove at right guard. Kyle DeVan has also played much better after having struggled previously. OLT Charlie Johnson, who has been playing at less than 100 percent most of the season, is doing an admirable job.