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Texans on the Road to Recovery This Week Against Rival Jaguars

The Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars both sit tied for third/fourth place of the AFC South behind the tied-for-first-place5-3 Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans.  The record fits each team in the division.  Both the Titans and Colts haven’t let injuries hold back their dominance.  The Texans have struggled against the pass and have found it difficult to stay on a game plan.  Lastly, the Jaguars continue to deal with Jaguar-precedented inconsistency and what seems like Mt. Everest to them: developing a pass game.  This week the Titans play the Fins and the Colts take on the Bengals.  The Texans-Jaguars match-up provides these teams with an opportunity to get things clicking in order to take a step forward in the tight AFC South.

What to Look For

For the first time this year, the Houston Texans will face a team who’s defense is also at the bottom of the barrel of the league’s defensive pass rankings. And although the Jaguars offense is far being one of the best in the league, they come with an arsenal of offensive athletic playmakers.  The Texans sit last in the league in defense and are fifth overall in the league in offense.  The Jaguars are 28th in the league in defense and rank a lowly 23rd overall in offense.  In fact, the Jaguars have been outscored 226-165 coming into Sunday’s game.  Off paper, the Texans should take an early lead, keep it and win.  While the Jags’ are coming off a bye, the Texans should be determined after a disappointing loss against the Chargers.  Look for a smash mouth gridiron bout where the Jaguars will be looking to go 3-0 against the Texans since last season.

Houston Texans

Arian Foster. Through all the Texans’ downfalls this season, Arian Foster has stayed a constant.  Give him the rock and watch him rake up yardage.  The offensive line has blocked beautifully, and Foster has been one to make his own space as well.  The Texans must continue to pound Foster against the Jaguars’ 22nd ranked defense.  Look for Foster to make an impact also in the pass game.

Matt Schaub. From inconsistencies to injuries, Schaub’s past battles with the Jaguars have been forgettable.  His success this season has rode on the Texans’ run game in the first half and the Texans’ need to come back in the second.  Against the Jaguars’ current 28th ranked pass defense, Schaub should find his groove early with a successful run game, and by the second half should be playing game management.  Expect Schaub to get Andre Johnson, Jacoby Jones, Kevin Walter and David Anderson involved, for what may feel like for the first time this season.

Brian Cushing. Head coach Gary Kubiak told the Houston media Wednesday that Brian Cushing will primarily play SAM linebacker but still play some middle linebacker on Sunday, always in the nickel.  This will effectuate the Texans’ pass rush and provide Cushing to still provide the Texans will playmaking ability on defense in the nickel.  Gary Kubiak’s reason for change is Xavier Adibi is healthy and able to fill-in as needed.  Kubiak did not say whether Cushing will start at middle linebacker on Sunday.  Although Cushing has failed to make an impact in his three games at middle linebacker, Sunday’s role reversal will give him the chance to make plays.  Its a wise move because both Jaguars’ quarterback David Garrard and running back Maurice Jones-Drew are stout inside and outside on the run.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Maurice Jones-Drew. Maurice Jones-Drew has had his slowest season of his full-starter career.  Although he is averaging 4.0 yards per carry, he has only three touchdowns this season (2 receiving, 1 rush).  Opposing teams have been stacking 9 to 10 in the box, forcing the Jags to find other avenues for success.  While Jones-Drew has only two games over 100 yards and two games under 50 yards, the Jaguars have found success against opposing defense’s shut-down-the-run-and-shut-down-the-Jags philosophy.  Against the measly Dallas Cowboys defense who followed that philosophy two weeks ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars tore them up.  The Jags used simple play actions to keep opposing Cowboy secondary defenders in the box, which allowed Jags receivers to find open space behind the Cowboys’ safeties. The Texans’ can’t fully commit to 9 in the box.  Texans’ safeties, Bernard Pollard and Eugene Wilson, have been beat too many times this year on similar plays.  Expect the Texans to prepare for Jones-Drew’s impeccable athleticism and ability to break open a touchdown from nothing, but they cannot allow the secondary to forget about the pass game.

David Garrard. Garrard threw for 260 yards and four touchdowns in his last game and win over the Dallas Cowboys.   Can the Jaguars’ starting quarterback do the same thing against the Texans porous defense?  Well, the Texans’ secondary is multitudes worse and less experienced than the Cowboys’ secondary.  And the Texans have allowed the worst of quarterbacks to succeed against them.  So I wouldn’t doubt if Garrard puts up over 200 yards and a few touchdowns. Expect Mike Sims-Walker (who has had a slow season), Mike Thomas, and Mercedes Lewis to be heavily involved Sunday while the Texans put too much emphasis on stopping the bowling ball, Maurice Jones-Drew.

Linebacker Core of Kirk Morrison, Justin Durant & Daryl Smith. The Jacksonville Jaguars have a special group of linebackers.  Middle linebacker Kirk Morrison told Vic Ketchman of that he has never had an opportunity to make a second half run at the playoffs:

“I’ve never had a second-half run before. We had always been out of the playoffs in November. It feels great to be in the hunt,

As the leader of the defense, Kirk Morrison surely is having an impact on his outside linebackers.  Durant has returned from an ankle injury and has played as well as last year.  Smith, in combination with the Jags’ defensive line, has been stellar against the run and is 21 tackles away from setting the franchise mark in tackles.  These linebackers should prepare well for Foster’s 4-8 yard rushes.   These linebackers are fast, smart and strong. This group of linebackers pose a challenge for Foster, who usually makes more room in the middle of the defense.

Editor’s Picks

Remember the David Carr years?  He had Jacksonville’s number.  Once he left, the Jags took our number and ran with it.  In fact, the Jaguars are trying to make a habit of sweeping the Texans in their biannual match-ups.  However, this year’s much different. While Garrard has beat us in the past, it really hasn’t been with his arm.  He’s beaten us with his legs.  If the Texans can stop the run, they can guarantee a win.  Yes, Maurice Jones-Drew poses an indefinite match-up problem, but then again, but I expect the Texans’ offense to be too much for the Jaguars’ defense.  If Schaub can stay positive and be consistent, he will pave the road for a fourth quarter full of Foster’s gashing runs.  Texans win 34-28.

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