First-place battle in Music City

To Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and Lady Antebellum, add the Tennessee Titans as practitioners of sweet music in Nashville.

An AFC South devoid of Peyton Manning already has developed into a two-team race between the Titans (3-2) and reeling Houston Texans (3-3). The Titans begin a three-game homestand with a superb chance to lay claim to the division in what was supposed to be a transitional season under new coach Mike Munchak.

"Good teams in this league win at home. Great teams in this league are undefeated at home. We can put our foot down on some guys, take control of the division and get into the playoffs and try to make a run," said fullback Ahmard Hall, who is from Houston — the former home of the Titans, of course.

Hall believes that adds some spice to the series, which Tennessee leads 13-5. A year ago, with a much different roster that was headed for a 6-10 record that cost Jeff Fisher his job as coach, the Titans won 31-17 in Music City in Game 14. That loss helped keep the Texans from their first playoff berth.

With the Colts in free-fall minus Manning and the Jaguars a mess, many assumed Houston would run off with the AFC South. Instead, the Texans have been ravaged by injuries — their best player on each side of the ball, receiver Andre Johnson and linebacker Mario Williams, have been sidelined, Williams for the rest of the year — and they've lost three of the last four. They fell apart late in the last two defeats, quarterback Matt Schaub also is banged-up, and their confidence is fragile.

Green Bay (6-0)at Minnesota (1-5)

Remember when this was such a fun matchup, when that Brett guy was wearing either green and gold, or purple and white? Now, it's noteworthy only to see if the defending Super Bowl champs can remain the league's lone undefeated team, and how the Packers treat Minnesota's latest quarterback, Christian Ponder.

Donovan McNabb was benched this week as the Vikings turn to the future. Ponder, their first-round draft pick in April, can expect to see lots of Clay Matthews and Desmond Bishop in his grille.

Atlanta (3-3) at Detroit (5-1)

Hopefully the attention will be on the game action, not the postgame handshake between Jim Schwartz and Mike Smith.

And there should be plenty of action on the field, whether it's Atlanta's blockers trying to slow down Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril, or the Falcons' inconsistent defense dealing with Calvin Johnson, who played college ball at Georgia Tech and will be a monstrous challenge for CBs Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson.

Chicago (3-3)vs. Tampa Bay (4-2), at London

Chicago's first appearance in London since the initial American Bowl, a preseason game in 1986 — when the Bears were defending champions. They made a nice turnaround last week by routing Minnesota, but not nearly as impressive as Tampa Bay's 180. The Bucs went from a 48-3 annihilation in San Francisco to a 26-20 victory over New Orleans.

Denver (1-4) at Miami (0-5)

T-E-B-O-W, T-E-B-O-W.

Those chants, familiar in central Florida when Tebow was winning national championships for the Florida Gators, could rock Sun Life Stadium. There isn't likely to be much else worth getting excited about with these two tailenders.

Kansas City (2-3)at Oakland (4-2)

There can't be any question the Raiders are going for broke now and in the near future; the trade for Carson Palmer emphasizes that approach.

Palmer got his way — which was a way out of Cincinnati — and the Bengals got more compensation than they ever could have imagined for the quarterback who takes over in Oakland for injured Jason Campbell.

San Diego (4-1)at New York Jets (3-3)

New York ended a three-game slide, all on the road, by beating Miami. This is a truer measure whether the Jets are a contender. They must get their offense on track more consistently, and perhaps LaDainian Tomlinson getting to run and catch the ball against his former team will provide a boost.

The Chargers have gotten off to a quick start, for once, and come off a bye. Their offense is plenty balanced and leads the league in time of possession (35:17).

Pittsburgh (4-2) at Arizona (1-4)

Don't be fooled by Pittsburgh's record; the Steelers have been inconsistent and mistake prone. Still, they rank first in overall defense, mainly because of how they stop the pass, a bit surprising considering their reputation against the run.

Indianapolis (0-6)at New Orleans (4-2)

That juicy matchup near the French Quarter won't be happening. Sure, Peyton Manning will accompany the Colts to his hometown. He won't be anywhere near the huddle, though, to the immeasurable disappointment of NBC, which gets a second straight Sunday night dud.

St. Louis (0-5) at Dallas (2-3)

As if the Rams weren't hurting enough, physically and mentally, from the pounding they've taken this year, QB Sam Bradford is limping with a high left ankle sprain and will not play today, leaving the job to A.J. Feeley. Getting their first win at Cowboys Stadium would appear a long shot even if he can go.

Dallas got conservative on offense and defense late in its visit to New England. The Cowboys shouldn't have such concerns in the fourth quarter this time, but they do have a visit to Philadelphia next weekend and need to avoid getting distracted by it.

Washington (3-2)at Carolina (1-5)

Another quarterback change after Bad Rex showed up for the Redskins last Sunday. John Beck gets his first start since 2007 in place of Rex Grossman, who was picked off four times by Philly as the Skins fell out of the NFC East lead for the first time this season.

Seattle (2-3) at Cleveland (2-3)

Mike Holmgren left the Seahawks after the 2009 season and probably can't recognize much about his former team that comes to visit Sunday. Pete Carroll, his replacement as coach, and John Schneider, his replacement as general manager, never seem to stop bartering.

The Browns acquitted themselves pretty well in a loss at Oakland last week, but need to find a running game. A healthy Peyton Hillis would help; he is bothered by a strained left hamstring.

Baltimore (4-1)at Jacksonville (1-5)Monday night

The Ravens have won seven of the last eight against Jacksonville and have that fierce defensive look about them again. That doesn't bode well for rookie QB Blaine Gabbert and a spiraling Jaguars team that has only one real weapon on offense, RB Maurice Jones-Drew.

Defense hasn't been so problematic for the Jags despite their five-game slide. They don't match up with Ray Lewis and Co., though.

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