Following are some whispers that we've been hearing from around the AFC:
• Former Patriots safety and current "Football Night in America" analyst Rodney Harrison believes the Patriots should use Patrick Chung on blitzes more often. "A lot of times they have him playing deep middle, which I think is really out of position. I'd like to see them bring him off the edge, let him move around, disguise some more and being that extra blitzer," Harrison told PFW. "I believe the Patriots don't trust their defensive backs. That's why their best tackler, their best secondary player, is playing at the free safety spot a lot. ... There's no reason why he shouldn't blitz two or three times a game. I think he has that type of talent, speed, instincts, toughness, ability to make an RB miss trying to block him — he has that type of talent."
• When the Bills got off to a 5-2 start, much of it had to do with the defense creating turnovers, which masked the fact that the unit was frequently giving up more than 400 yards of offense a game. With NT Kyle Williams out for the season, the front seven has been under more pressure to produce and has not played well. One daily team observer believes losing Williams means more to the Bills' D-line than the loss of C Eric Wood, who tore his ACL, means to the O-line.
• A rough stretch of games for Jets S Eric Smith continued on Thursday night when he did not contain Broncos QB Tim Tebow on the game-winning TD run. Smith was tormented by Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski a week before. NBC analyst Rodney Harrison addressed Smith when asked by PFW about covering tight ends. "Eric Smith is not a bad safety, but he's toast if he tries to stick Jason Witten in the slot," Harrison said. "That's not his forte. His forte is being the eighth man in the box, trying to get everyone lined up and playing run defense.
• The way we hear it, two young Steelers defenders to watch now and in the future are OLB Jason Worilds and CB Cortez Allen. Both have shown promise this season. Worilds, who's in his second NFL season, has started a pair of games in place of LaMarr Woodley and has shown well, we're told. Allen, a rookie from The Citadel, is the fourth cornerback. He had multiple tackles in three consecutive games entering the Week 11 bye.
• Ravens WR David Reed was a capable and dangerous kickoff returner as a rookie in 2010, averaging 29.3 yards on 21 returns and scoring a 103-yard TD in a win at Houston. However, he has struggled this season. Two lost fumbles at Seattle led to two Seahawks field goals in a 22-17 Ravens loss. For the time being, Reed has lost his job on kickoffs, and the way we hear it, it will be interesting to see where he fits in the Ravens' game plan going forward if he's not returning kicks, as he does not have a major role on offense. Said Ravens special-teams coach Jerry Rosburg: "I'm sure he can bounce back. David is a competitive athlete. He's looking forward to his next opportunity. We don't know when that is. I'm certain, when he does get in there again, everybody is going to be watching him with that in mind. But David is a competitive guy and he understands what he has to do to get that job back. He's got to earn the trust of everybody on this football team that he's going to hang on to the ball when he gets it."
• One of the ultimate ironies of the Colts' dreadful season is that the offensive line, which has been regularly regarded as the Achilles' heel of the club, has performed fairly well despite nine different linemen making at least one start because of injuries. The Colts are averaging 4.4 yards per carry — their highest average in the past decade — and have been a middle-of-the-road unit in terms of pass protection (21 sacks, 50 QB hits). Word is, offensive line coach Pete Metzelaars has done a remarkable job considering the talent level with which he has to work.
• Jaguars GM Gene Smith proved this offseason that you can rebuild a defense in free agency. Sure, he spent $100 million, but he wisely distributed that money and is getting great contributions from his newcomers all across the board. MLB Paul Posluszny might have been the best acquisition of the bunch. He never comes off the field and has not been as bad in coverage as his reputation suggested.
• Although Titans rookie MLB Colin McCarthy was outstanding in his first career start in place of the injured Barrett Ruud in Week 10, head coach Mike Munchak said Ruud will regain the starting job because of his experience and leadership qualities. Ruud has underwhelmed in his first season in Nashville, and the way we hear it, McCarthy is the more energetic and physical player. Ruud, who signed a one-year deal this offseason with the Titans, could be one-and-done because of the promise McCarthy has shown.
• Raiders rookie OL Stefen Wisniewski has proven to be an outstanding player at both left guard and center this season. The team struggled for much of the past decade selecting good offensive linemen in the draft, but in the past two years, it has found two building-block players in Wisniewski and OLT Jared Veldheer. A source said the team plans on returning the rookie to left guard when C Samson Satele returns from a knee injury.
• With injuries eliminating any depth the Chargers had at outside linebacker, the team took a risk on former Panthers second-round pick Everette Brown, who was released after just two seasons in Carolina. He was almost invisible in the Week 10 loss to the Raiders, but the team hopes he can be a blitzing linebacker and spark the pass rush. Brown has never been a good run defender and will likely only be used on third downs.
• We hear that Chiefs RB Thomas Jones is no longer a key part of the team's running game, and the facts back that statement. In the team's three games leading up to the Week 11 Monday nighter vs. the Patriots, Jones had no more than five carries or 10 yards in any of them. The 33-year-old is a free agent after this season and is not likely to be brought back to K.C. in 2012 if he chooses not to retire.
• The Broncos will continue to tinker with an offensive playbook that has been boom-or-bust the past few weeks with Tim Tebow under center. One of those minor changes was a decision to come out throwing on the first play of the Week 11 victory against the Jets, a play few New York defenders expected. "We just wanted to spread it out, because they were probably going to anticipate (a) run (play)," Tebow said afterward. As the quarterback becomes more comfortable in the offense, expect more of these minor changes to be made to throw opponents off.