Texans plan to top Jags, hope for help

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Texans still have a glimmer of hope at a postseason spot.

But, that's all it is really as the Texans will try to close out their season on a winning note, as they welcome the Jacksonville Jaguars to NRG Stadium.

Despite being down to their fourth quarterback, top pick Jadeveon Clowney lost for most of the season due to injury, Houston is still alive in the playoff hunt just one year removed from a 2-14 finish in 2013.

"It's incredible, especially coming from last year, losing 14 straight and knowing that you're out of it," safety D.J. Swearinger said. "Just taking care of business one game at a time and knowing that you may get in there is good."

It may need a miracle, though. First of all, the Texans need to defeat the Jaguars, then will need the Cleveland Browns to beat Baltimore and San Diego to upend the Kansas City Chiefs.

"I'm sure that's the case, but the only thing we can focus on is going out and winning this next game," cornerback Kareem Jackson said. "That's all we can do is do our part. We'll prepare this week and we'll go out and we'll play on Sunday and get a win."

The Texans kept their fleeting hopes alive on Sunday, as Randy Bullock converted a franchise-record six field goals while Arian Foster threw a touchdown pass as the Texans downed the Baltimore Ravens, 25-13, in Week 16 action.

Case Keenum passed for 185 yards and was picked off once after completing 20- of-42 passes to record his first career win as a starter for the Texans, who guaranteed themselves at least a .500 season with their third win in the last four.

"Nothing's guaranteed, but at least our last game means something," said Texans head coach Bill O'Brien about his club's slim postseason hopes. "That was just a great team effort ... I give a lot of credit to our players and coaching staff. It was a great win for us."

Foster also racked up a game-high 96 yards rushing on 25 attempts while C.J. Fiedorowicz was the beneficiary of his scoring throw. Andre Johnson totaled 65 yards on six catches and reached the 1,000-reception plateau.

"Obviously the Jaguars are a totally different team than the Ravens, so we have to do a good job of preparing together, myself, George (Godsey), Case (Keenum) and then the team on offense of making sure we put together a good game plan and making sure that he knows it," O'Brien said. "Again, he'll make improvement just from being here for a week and getting back into the routine of the way we do things."

Jacksonville, meanwhile, has been out of postseason contention for some time, but enters this week's final matchup on a winning note. The Jaguars picked up their third win of the season in Week 16, as Jordan Todman's 62-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter highlighted Jacksonville's 21-13 victory over the hapless Tennessee Titans.

Blake Bortles completed 13-of-26 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown for the Jaguars, who scored 21 straight points after falling behind 10-0.

Todman carried the ball five times for 71 yards for Jacksonville, which avenged a 16-14 loss to these Titans on Oct. 12. Toby Gerhart rushed for 53 yards and a score on 12 carries.

"You could feel the energy throughout," Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. "I think what is really neat about this whole experience was different guys stood out at different times."

Jacksonville, which is 0-7 on the road, also lost all eight of its games away from home in 2003.

Houston beat Jacksonville back on Dec. 7, but the Jags took both meetings a season ago. The Texans, though, have won six of the last eight overall matchups.


A big reason why the Texans are in the position they are in is their defense, specifically with J.J. Watt, who some believe could win an MVP award this season.

Houston's defense has surrendered an average of 15.5 points over a span that has seen it won four of six games. The Texans have also forced a team-record 34 turnovers they've turned into 123 points, also the most in team history.

Watt has been an absolute beast and has recorded eight of his 17 1/2 sacks this season in the last four games. That trend could continue on Sunday, as he has faced the Jaguars seven times and has 8 1/2 sacks.

That may mean bad news for the rookie Bortles.

Bortles has thrown 17 interceptions this season, one less than Jay Cutler league-leading total. The 50 times he's been sacked are also the second most in the NFL.

"We're trying to develop these guys and trying to create a mentality of making it highly competitive so we can get the most out of everybody," Bradley said.

Regardless of Jacksonville's record, this season was all about the development of Bortles, who completed 20-of-39 passes for 205 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Week 14 loss to Houston.

And Bortles has showed improvement. After throwing 12 picks in his first six games, he has only thrown five in 234 attempts over his last seven games. He's also only lost one fumble on the year.

"It's seeing more things, becoming more consistent in the decisions that I'm making and not being so sporadic," Bortles said. "When you get the same look and have the same play call, you want to do (the same thing) over and over again so that everybody has a feel for what you're going to do."

With Gerhart banged up with bruised ribs it figures to be another back-by- committee situation with the third string Todman carrying the bulk of the load on Sunday.

Houston's defense, though, held the Jags to just 74 yards on the ground in the earlier meeting.


It may be a longshot for Houston to get into the postseason, but it still wants to finish this season on a high note. Jacksonville has been competitive in almost every game its played this season, particularly lately as evident with wins in two of its last four. There have been signs of progress and Bortles seems to get better each week. But, getting past a playoff caliber team like the Texans with as stingy a defense as there is in the league may be a tall task. If Bortles can protect the ball against a very opportunistic Texans D the Jags may be able to stay in this one.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Texans 16, Jaguars 13