Texans-Jaguars Preview

Some members of the Houston Texans felt they bottomed out after

a recent home loss to Jacksonville. Now that Houston has fallen

into last place after winning the last two AFC South titles, it

might be the Jaguars who would feel embarrassed by not sweeping the

season series.

Looking to win three straight for the first time in three

seasons, Jacksonville hopes to end a franchise-worst, seven-game

home losing streak and hand the Texans an 11th consecutive defeat

Thursday night.

When these teams met in Houston (2-10) on Nov. 24, the Jaguars

entered with the league’s worst record but emerged with a 13-6

victory over the two-time reigning division champions.

As Jacksonville (3-9) snapped a five-game skid in the series,

Texans receiver Andre Johnson called it the “lowest point” of his

11-year NFL career. Teammate Ben Tate said he respected the Jaguars

but felt “very embarrassed and bad for the city (of Houston).”

The Jaguars heard similarly disparaging comments from at least

one Tennessee player after ending their 0-8 start with a 29-27 win

over the Titans on Nov. 10.

“I couldn’t care less what (our opponents) think,” Cecil Shorts

III said after catching the go-ahead touchdown pass with 40 seconds

left in Sunday’s 32-28 win at Cleveland. “It’s the NFL. You’re

going to win or lose each week. You’ve got to bring your best that

week.

“For us, we’re getting better. We’ve been 3-1 since the bye

week, so if they’ve got a problem with it, come see us.”

While the Jaguars are confident they can win three in a row for

the first time since Oct. 31-Nov. 21, 2010, the Texans remain

frustrated amid their worst season since going 2-14 in 2005.

“I wouldn’t say it feels the same,” Johnson said of comparing

the two seasons. “Back then I don’t think we had a good football

team like we have now as far as talent-wise. This season has been

disappointing for everybody – a lot of frustration.”

Despite the lack of positive results, Houston players have not

quit on themselves or their coaches.

“We’re playing hard, we’re not always playing good,” coach Gary

Kubiak said.

The Texans matched a season high for points Sunday, but blew a

10-point halftime lead en route to a 34-31 home loss to New

England. Houston has been outscored 151-49 after the first half

during the franchise-worst 10-game skid.

Tate was held to one yard on seven carries versus Jacksonville,

then rushed for a season-high 102 and three touchdowns on 22

attempts Sunday. However, Case Keenum went 15 of 30 for 272 yards

with an interception and no TDs.

In six starts, Keenum is completing 54.2 percent of his passes –

second-worst in the league since Oct. 15. He’s thrown two picks and

no touchdowns in the last two, which included a season-low 169-yard

passing effort against the Jaguars.

Houston allows 303.9 yards per game to rank third in the NFL but

gives up an average of 26.9 points to rank 27th.

“(It is) very humbling to go from truly visualizing you being in

the Super Bowl to you being the worst team in the league … but it

isn’t going to stop our fight,” said defensive end Antonio Smith,

who apologized Monday for using the word “spying” when commenting

on the Patriots’ second-half adjustments.

Last swept by the Jaguars in 2009, the Texans were held to a

season-low 218 total yards during the first meeting.

Kubiak understands the challenge that awaits against a

Jacksonville team which has improved under first-year coach Gus

Bradley.

“I think he’s done a great job,” he said. “He’s had them playing

hard all year long and consistent. And these last few weeks,

they’ve played extremely well.”

Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew ran 14 times for a season-high

84 yards and the game’s lone TD at Houston. He rushed for 77 and

also threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Marcedes Lewis at

Cleveland.

The Jaguars scored 86 points during their 0-8 start and 88 while

winning three of four. They rushed for 230 yards in the last two

games after averaging 61.7 in the first 10.

“It’s like we’re a more confident team,” Shorts told the team’s

official website. “We’re going into games expecting to win and

expecting to do well during the games. … We’re growing up and

we’re coming on.”

The Jaguars are the only team yet to win at home, getting

outscored 158-35 in five games. They’ve lost seven straight in

Jacksonville since a 24-19 win over Tennessee on Nov. 25, 2012.