J.J. Watt and the slumping Texans look to snap 10-game losing streak against the resurgent Jaguars in this AFC South battle.
Streaks have been the common theme in seasons of these to AFC South foes. Jacksonville began the seaosn 0-8 and were on pace to turn in one of the poorest statistical seasons in NFL history. Remarkably, Gus Bradley turned the Jaguars' season around by registering three wins in four games since the bye.
On the other hand, the Texans began the season at 2-0; however, poor quarterback play and injury troubles have caused them to fall into a 10-game slide. Houston lost 13-6 to the Jaguars at Reliant Stadium just two weeks ago. Houston is 13-10 all-time against Jacksonville, including five straight wins before that Nov. 24 loss.
3 Things to Watch
Can the Texans' offense rebound?
Two weeks ago the Texans turned in a disastrous offensive performance with just 218 total yards. Case Keenum had his worst game as a pro, throwing for just 169 yards and an interception on 18 of 34 passing. He had just 32 yards passing in the first half, which saw the Texans fail to make a first down and accumulate just 20 total yards on four straight possessions until backup running back Dennis Johnson broke off a 29-yard run four minutes before halftime. Andre Johnson posted season lows with two catches for 36 yards. Ben Tate, who had three touchdowns and over 100 yards rushing against the Patriots last week, rushed for just a single yard on seven carries against the Jaguars' defense. He was benched for Johnson midway through the second quarter. Tate will need to be much better this week as he should have plenty of opportunities against the league's 29th-ranked rushing defense.
Is MJD ready for a repeat?
It's been tough sledding for the veteran from UCLA in 2013. Despite Maurice Jones-Drew's (above) struggles in 2013, he had his best game of the season just 11 days ago against Houston. Jones-Drew had 84 rushing yards and 60 receiving yards, averaging 7.2 yards per touch which more than doubled his 3.4 average through his first nine games. He followed up his performance against the Texans by rushing for 77 yards and throwing a touchdown at Cleveland. Jones-Drew appears ready to put together a strong finish to his season. The Jaguars certainly could use him at full strength against a stingy Texans defense.
Houston is 31st in the NFL in turnover differential at -12. Despite losing both games, the Texans only turned the ball over twice in the last two weeks. Keenum has done a nice job protecting the ball, throwing only three interceptions. The defense hasn't done a very good job of forcing turnovers, with only 14 on the season ranking them third-to-last in the AFC. Jacksonville has forced four turnovers the last two weeks, including three takeaways versus the Browns last week. If Jacksonville can force a few turnovers, they should have a huge leg up.
Key Player for Houston: Andre Johnson, WR
Andre Johnson was terrible in his last game against Jacksonville, which was quite out of character. After Josh Gordon's giant game last week it's clear that the Jaguars' secondary is prone to being taken advantage of by talented wide receivers. Johnson should be hungry for revenge and has the talent to take advantage of a young Jacksonville secondary.
Key Player for Jacksonville: Cecil Shorts III, WR
With Justin Blackmon suspended, Shorts has been asked to pick up the slack. Last week he certainly did so, with the game-winning touchdown matched up against Browns' shutdown cornerback Joe Haden. He is Chad Henne's favorite target, as he's seen 11 in each of the Jags' last two games. Shorts, the Jags' leader with 10 catches of more than 20 yards, is listed as questionable with a nagging groin injury. If he can't play Henne will be starved for options to get the ball to.
Neither offense has been particularily explosive this season; however, Houston clearly has more talent with Ben Tate in the backfield and the combo of Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins on the outside. If Case Keenum can do his job and get the ball to his playmakers, while avoiding turnovers, then the Texans' talent should win out. Look for J.J. Watt to be all over Chad Henne as the Jaguars' offensive line has stuggled with power rushers this season.
Houston 20, Jacksonville 17