WHEN THE JAGUARS HAVE THE BALL
Jacksonville rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the No. 10 overall pick in this past April’s draft, recorded his first NFL win as a starter against the Ravens last week. Since 2010, running back Maurice Jones-Drew averages 95.3 rushing yards per game, second-best in the NFL behind only Houston’s Arian Foster (97.0 ypg), and seeks an eighth straight game with 80-plus rushing yards. Jones-Drew also leads the AFC and is second in the NFL with 677 rushing yards, trailing only Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (712). In his past three games against the Texans, Jones-Drew has two 100-yard rushing games and five touchdowns. Thomas had a career-best 149 receiving yards in last November’s win against the Texans, while fellow wide receiver Jason Hill has two touchdown catches in his past three games. Tight end Marcedes Lewis enters the game needing eight catches to reach 200 for his career.
The Houston defense is tied with Baltimore with an AFC-best 19 sacks, and rookie linebacker Brooks Reed — a second-round choice in last April’s draft — registered the first of his career in last week’s game. Inside linebacker Brian Cushing leads the Texans with 47 tackles, while eighth-year defensive end Antonio Smith has 4 1/2 sacks up front and in the backfield, cornerback Johnathan Joseph has 25 tackles and three interceptions.
Jacksonville is second-to-last in scoring offense (12.0 ppg), last in both total yards (252.4 ypg) and passing yards (128.4 ypg) and 10th in rushing yards (124.0 ypg). The Texans are fifth in scoring defense (18.7 ppg), eighth in both total yards (302.9 ypg) and passing yards (203.6 ypg) allowed and seventh in rushing defense (99.3 ypg).
WHEN THE TEXANS HAVE THE BALL
In six career starts against the Jaguars, Houston quarterback Matt Schaub has completed 133-of-187 passes (71.1 percent) for 1,640 yards, 10 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 109 rating. He aims for a third straight game with a 120-plus passer rating against Jacksonville as well. Foster became the first player since Brian Westbrook in 2007 to have at least 100-plus rushing yards and over 100 receiving yards while scoring both a running and receiving touchdown in the same game when he did so against the Titans last week. He rushed for 180 yards on 31 carries (5.8 average) with two touchdowns against Jacksonville in last year’s season finale as well and aims for a fifth straight game with at least 100 yards from scrimmage yards after posting 234 last week. Backup running back Ben Tate posted a third 100-yard rushing game of the season by gaining 104 yards in last week’s rout, while Johnson’s 85 career receptions against Jacksonville are tied for his most against any opponent (also has 85 against Tennessee). Johnson also needs two catches to reach 700 and would be doing so in the second-fewest games (120) in NFL history, behind only Marvin Harrison (114). Tight end Owen Daniels aims for a third straight game with a touchdown against Jacksonville on Sunday.
Linebacker Paul Posluszny leads the Jaguars with 59 tackles and cornerback Rashean Mathis has two interceptions in his past three games on the road against Houston. Defensive end Jeremy Mincey has two sacks in Jacksonville’s last three games, while cornerback Drew Coleman posted his first interception of the season last week.
Houston is seventh in the league in both scoring offense (26.0 ppg) and total yards (400.6 ypg), 10th in passing yards (260.7 ypg) and fifth in rushing yards (139.9 ypg). The Jaguars are eighth in scoring defense (19.9 ppg), sixth in both total yards (299.7 ypg) and passing yards (196.3 ypg) allowed and 10th in rush defense (103.4 ypg).
KEYS TO THE GAME
If Johnson returns, he automatically changes the game for the Texans, who’ve relied on his connection with Schaub to open lanes for Foster and produce one of the league’s most prolific offensive balances.
Speaking of Foster, his double 100-yard game last week provides an interesting challenge for the Jaguars, who’ve been a top-10 unit across the board on defense.
Gabbert earned his first win as a starter, but didn’t dazzle against the Ravens. He’ll likely need to be more productive this week, as it’s probably going to take more than four field goals to earn a win at Houston.
Prediction – The Jags come in riding high with a huge win over the Ravens on Monday night. They got a good game from Blaine Gabbert, who didn’t make mistakes. The Texans have to force him and confuse him into a few errors, and it’s at that point with short fields the Texans can attack. Matt Schaub was excellent against the Titans, and will need to be that way again, and Arian Foster also needs some runs to soften up that Jags D-line that got to Joe Flacco. It won’t be easy, but the Texans will find a way. Houston 20 Jacksonville 13