Jaguars have Texans' full attention this time around
The Sports Xchange
NFL Team Report - Houston Texans - INSIDE SLANT
The lowest point in franchise history was Nov. 24 when the Houston Texans lost at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 13-6. The Jaguars came to Houston as the worst team in the NFL, and two games later, the Texans have replaced them with the worst record in the NFL.
The Texans are 2-10 and the Jaguars 3-9 entering Thursday night's game at EverBank Field. The Jaguars shocked the Texans by pulling the upset at Reliant Stadium.
"Caught me by surprise for sure, definitely," outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus said. "Against the Jags, it was a little disappointing."
The Texans should have huge chips on their shoulders after getting embarrassed at home by the Jaguars and earning the dubious distinction as the NFL's worst team.
Even though the Jaguars have won three of their past four, all on the road, the Texans still opened as a three-point favorite.
"We're expecting what they've been doing for the last few weeks, especially what they did against us," Mercilus said about winning and stopping the 10-game losing streak.
The Texans have lost their last six by an average of 3.6 points a game. Coach Gary Kubiak is eager to get back on the field, so the short week is good from that standpoint.
"I wish we could play every day right now," he said. "We've got to get this taste out of our mouths. Winning is the most important thing. It doesn't matter whether you're 10-2 or 2-10, nothing's changed other than it's very difficult to work through the situation.
"As a coach and as a player, you wouldn't be in this business if you haven't worked through these things before or you don't have the belief that you're going to work through this. If you're going to stick around our business, you'll probably get a chance at both ends of the stick. So find out what you're made of. This is a very difficult time, but guys are pushing themselves as best they can.
"At the end of the day, though, you don't get to smile and hand everybody a ball and say, 'Boy, that was a great effort.'"
If the Texans get swept by the Jaguars, they're looking at a 2-14 record and a 14-game losing streak. After Jacksonville, they travel to Indianapolis, where they've never won, before hosting Denver and closing at Tennessee.
SERIES HISTORY: 24th regular-season meeting. The Texans lead 13-10. The Jaguars won 13-6 at Reliant Stadium last week, breaking a five-game losing streak in this AFC South series. The Texans are 5-6 at EverBank Field, including two consecutive victories. The last time they lost in Jacksonville was in 2010.
NFL Team Report - Houston Texans - NOTES, QUOTES
--The Texans are having a terrible season, but defensive end J.J. Watt has been exceptional again.
According to STATS, LLC, Watt leads the NFL with 38 quarterback hits and 17 tackles for loss. He leads defensive linemen with 51 tackles. He also has 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles as well as two blocked field goals.
"J.J.'s probably the top defensive lineman in the league," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. "I think everybody can see that from the way he plays. He's really hitting the quarterback a lot of times this year. He hasn't had as many sacks, but he's had a lot of hits on the quarterbacks. And he's still getting a lot of tackles for loss. He's consistently a great player every game."
--Receiver Andre Johnson, who has 82 catches for 1,123 yards and five touchdowns, has averaged 91.8 yards a game since turning 30. That's the most in league history.
Denver's Wes Welker is second with 82.7, followed by Green Bay's Don Hutson with 82.5.
--Earl Mitchell leads all nose tackles with 37 tackles, including 23 unassisted.
Mitchell is playing in the last year of his contract. The Texans hope to re-sign him.
--Running back Ben Tate had one yard rushing against Jacksonville and 102 against New England.
"It was a confidence issue," offensive coordinator Rick Dennison said about believing more in the running game against the Patriots. "We started running the ball well. We found a crease, and he did a good job.
"They did a great job up front of getting on their guys and not letting them off. It was a (case) of making some runs early, being confident about it, and we just kept pressing the issue."
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 - Games in which the Texans have limited opponents to 200 yards or less over the last three seasons, tied for the fewest in the league.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've always had respect for them. They always play us tough. We've gotten the best of them over the years, but it's always been tough, physical games. We lost to them at home (13-6). You always gain a little bit more respect for any team that does that. We know we're going to have our work cut out for us." - Texans left tackle Duane Brown, when asked about Thursday night's prime-time rematch with the Jaguars.
NFL Team Report - Houston Texans - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--DE Antonio Smith didn't practice because he attended a relative's funeral. He'll start against Jacksonville.
--FB Greg Jones (knee) was limited in practice but will start against Jacksonville.
--CB Johnathan Joseph (groin) was limited in practice but will start against Jacksonville.
--ILB Joe Mays (knee) was limited in practice but will start against Jacksonville.
--OLB Whitney Mercilus (hip) was limited in practice but will start against Jacksonville.
--C Chris Myers (elbow) was limited in practice but will start against Jacksonville.
--ILB Darryl Sharpton (back) was limited in practice but will start against Jacksonville.
--LG Wade Smith (knee) was limited in practice but will start against Jacksonville.
--CB Kareem Jackson (rib) was limited in practice but will start against Jacksonville.
--ILB Mike Mohamed (hamstring) was limited in practice but will play against Jacksonville.
--ILB Jeff Tarpinian (groin) was limited in practice but will play against Jacksonville.
--RB Ben Tate (ribs) was limited in practice but will start against Jacksonville.
--WR Andre Johnson was limited to two catches for 36 yards in the first game against Jacksonville. He rebounded with eight receptions for 121 yards against New England.
--QB Case Keenum threw for only 169 yards and no touchdowns against the Jaguars in the first meeting. He was intercepted once. His rating was 54.7. He threw for 272 yards against the Patriots.
--SS D.J. Swearinger, a rookie second-round pick, had eight tackles against the Patriots, including seven unassisted. He'll spend a lot of time covering TE Marcedes Lewis, who had one reception for 18 yards against the Texans.
--C Chris Myers must be able to handle MLB Paul Posluszny better than he did in the first game. Myers has to keep Posluszny off the running backs in general and Ben Tate in particular.
--ILB Jeff Tarpinian, who was signed as a free agent a month ago, has been a nice find. He comes off the bench in some pass coverages because he can run and stick with backs and tight ends.
GAME PLAN: The Texans didn't score a touchdown in their 13-6 loss to the Jaguars at Reliant Stadium. Then they scored four - all on the ground - in their 34-31 loss to the Patriots. They have to run the ball effectively and consistently with Ben Tate getting the heavy-duty work. The Jaguars limited him to 1 yard on seven carries. He bounced back with 22 carries for 102 yards and three touchdowns against New England. They have to finish drives. Case Keenum has to protect the ball. The Jaguars blitzed him and confused him and shut him down in the fourth quarter. The Texans' defense has to stop the run and contain quarterback Chad Henne.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Texans RB Ben Tate, coming off his first 100-yard game since 2011, vs. MLB Paul Posluszny, who leads the defense with 113 tackles. The Jaguars shut down Tate in the first game, limiting him to 1 yard on seven carries. Posluszny had a game-high 14 tackles, including 11 unassisted. He was exceptional against the run. Tate is coming off a 102-yard, three-touchdown performance against New England. Running well between the tackles is paramount for Tate and the offense.
Texans CB Johnathan Joseph, who has been bothered by a sore groin, vs. Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts III, who's quarterback Chad Henne's favorite target. Shorts had eight catches for only 71 yards in the first game against the Texans. Expect Joseph to shadow him all over the field. Watch Henne go deep to Shorts a couple of times and perhaps even more to test Joseph's groin injury. Shorts leads the team with 64 catches for 764 yards.