The Houston Texans square off with their AFC South rival the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at noon. The Texans, who are 1-0 following the season opening win over the Miami Dolphins, will look to improve to 2-0 for the third consecutive season with a victory. They lead the all-time series against the Jags 11-9, which includes a 4-6 record in Jacksonville. The Texans are looking to beat the Jaguars for the fourth consecutive time, a feat that neither team has accomplished in this rivalry.
Houston swept Jacksonville last season, defeating them 24-14 in week 8 at Reliant Stadium and 20-13 in week 12 at Everbank Field. The last four games between the two teams there have been decided by 7 points or less. In the 20-13 win last season, Texans LB Connor Barwin set a franchise record with 4 sacks of Jags QB Blaine Gabbert. It was a career day for Barwin, who also registered 10 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 6 QB hits on the day.
Texans fans will remember that this game was also the day backup QB T.J. Yates made his NFL debut. Yates was forced into action in the 2nd quarter when then backup QB Matt Leinart was knocked out with a broken collar bone. It was not an ideal situation for the Texans, who had already lost Matt Schaub for the season the prior week. However, Yates showed poise and the defense did the rest, as Houston held on for the 7 point win. A win on Sunday would give the Texans consecutive victories in Jacksonville for the first time in franchise history.
The Jags will be playing their home opener, coming off of a 26-23 overtime loss on the road to the Minnesota Vikings. Houston is a 7.5 point favorite in the game and is in better shape than Jacksonville healthwise. Texans DE Antonio Smith was a full participant in practice Friday after missing the prior two days with a sore ankle. He will start on Sunday and looks to record a sack for the third consecutive regular season game.
Arian Foster left practice early Wednesday with an illness but returned the next two days and will also start. The only player who is questionable is OLB Bryan Braman, who will be a game-time decision with a hamstring injury. Braman, who is one of the team’s better special teams players, missed the opener because of the injury.
Special teams, along with the running game, were two areas that Gary Kubiak was unhappy with in the 30-10 win over Miami. The Texans allowed the Dolphins to score their only touchdown on a long punt return. Kubiak also did not like the fact that the Texans only averaged 2.4 yards per carry on the ground. Look for Houston to do a better job of running the ball Sunday. In the game in Jacksonville last season, Foster tied a career high with 33 carries. Of course the fact that the Texans had a 3rd string rookie QB playing in his first game factored into that heavy workload. It’s likely Foster won’t carry the ball that much this time, but look for he and Ben Tate to get plenty opportunities to run on Jacksonville’s defense.
They will be facing a Jaguar defense that will be without leading tackler and defensive leader LB Daryl Smith. That’s even more good news for Foster and company. The Jags are also banged up on the offensive line. OL Cameron Bradfield did not practice Friday and has been ruled out for Sunday. OT Eben Britton also missed practice and is questionable. That is bad news for Gabbert, who in addition to being battered by Barwin the last time these teams met, was the recipient of the ‘Bulls On Parade’ tying the franchise record with 7 sacks.
The defense can expect to have to deal with a heavy dose of Jags RB Maurice Jones Drew. Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey has already intimated that he will get a heavier workload than in week 1, where he had 19 rushes for 77 yards after missing all of the preseason with his holdout. With backup RB Rashad Jennings out wth a knee injury, Jones-Drew will likely touch the ball 25-30 times Sunday. Jacksonville will look to control the ball on the ground to A.) keep Gabbert upright and B.) keep Schaub and the Texans offense on the sideline.
The Jags were already facing a difficult enough task to try to beat the Texans. The injuries on their offensive line and the loss of their leading tackler will hurt them big time in this game. Foster and the Texans defense will take advantage of those two situations. Foster will accumulate over 150 all-purpose yards, Gabbert will be running for his life due to relentless pressure all game, and the Texans will improve to 2-0 with another 20 plus point victory
Texans 34 Jaguars 13