WHEN THE TEXANS HAVE THE BALL
Leinart will make his first start since November of 2009 with the Cardinals. The Texans are tied with Oakland and Minnesota with an NFL-best 13 rushing touchdowns in 2011, and Foster leads the NFL with 148.1 yards from scrimmage per game this season. He also is the first running back to have three 100-yard receiving games in a season since Richie Anderson in 2000. In his past four games, Foster is averaging 108.8 rushing yards and aims for a fifth consecutive game with at least one touchdown on the ground. The 2010 NFL rushing champion has totaled 292 rushing yards in his past two games against Jacksonville, an average of 146 per game. Backup running back Ben Tate is averaging 5.6 yards per carry as Foster’s understudy, while Johnson needs two receptions to reach 700 in the second-fewest games (120) in NFL history, behind only Marvin Harrisons 114. Johnson had nine receptions for 146 yards (16.2-yard average) with a touchdown in his last game against the Jaguars, which took place at EverBank Field in Week 10 of last season.
Jacksonville linebacker Paul Posluszny has 1 1/2 sacks in his past two games, while fourth-year end Jeremy Mincey had 37 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles for the season. Free safety Dawan Landry has 66 tackles, a half-sack, a forced fumble and two interceptions over the first 10 games.
Statistically speaking, Houston is fifth in scoring (27.3 ppg), seventh in total yards (396.2 ypg), 15th in passing (238.1 ypg) and second in rushing (158.1 ypg). On defense, Jacksonville is fifth in points allowed (18.0 ppg), third in total yards allowed (300.2 ypg), fourth against the pass (189.0 ypg) and 15th against the run (111.2 ypg).
WHEN THE JAGUARS HAVE THE BALL
Gabbert, the 10th overall selection in this past April’s draft registered his first win as a starter in his last home game, a 12-7 ousting of Baltimore on Oct. 24. Jones-Drew leads the AFC with 941 rushing yards in 2011 and has rushed for at least 80 yards in nine of 10 games this season. In his past four outings against Houston, the talented running back is averaging 89.5 yards per game on the ground, and he’s averaged 94.4 yards per game since the start of 2010, second-best in the NFL to Houstons Foster (98.2 ypg). Jones-Drew also needs just 59 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the third consecutive season. Thomas tied a career-high with eight receptions and registered a career-best 149 receiving yards, including the game-winning 50-yard touchdown reception, in Jacksonville’s home win over Houston last season. Fellow wide receiver Jason Hill, meanwhile, had a touchdown catch in last month’s loss at Houston. Tight end Marcedes Lewis needs 43 receiving yards to surpass Kyle Brady (2,500) for the most by a tight end in Jaguar history. He had season-bests in receptions (seven) and receiving yards (64) last week.
For the Houston defense, rookie linebacker Brooks Reed, a second-round pick in the 2011 draft, aims for a fifth consecutive game with a sack and inside linebacker Brian Cushing shoots for a third straight game with one. Rookie end J.J. Watt has 32 tackles and 2 1/2 sacks on the season, while cornerback Johnathan Joseph has 32 tackles, a forced fumble and three interceptions.
By the numbers, Jacksonville is second-to-last in scoring (12.5 ppg), last in both total yards (249.5 ypg) and passing (129.4 ypg) and 12th in rushing (120.1 ypg). Houston’s defense is second in points allowed (16.6 ppg), first in total yards allowed (269.7 ypg), second against the pass (178.4 ypg) and fourth against the run (91.3).
KEYS TO THE GAME
He’s a former Heisman winner and elite college-level quarterback, but Leinart has never proven ready to succeed on the NFL level. Surrounded by a high-end defense and powerful offensive weapons, he’d be hard-pressed to have a better staging point than this one, however, and may only need to be a serviceable game manager to get Houston another win.
The Jaguars are middle of the pack in the league against the run, which provides an inviting target for Foster, who’s likely to be a lean-on commodity for Leinart in his first Houston start.
Jacksonville’s Jones-Drew is within shouting distance of reaching 1,000 yards on the ground for the season and his presence is a valuable crutch for Gabbert, even against an elite Houston defense.
Prediction – It’s up to Matt Leinart to try and take the Texans where they have never gone before – the postseason. The year is over for Matt Schaub, and there’s panic for the 7-3 Texans, who now have to play a Jags team coming off a last second loss in Cleveland. The Jags need to use Maurice Jones-Drew more, as he was a non-factor late in the 14-10 loss to the Browns. Look for the Jags defense to confuse Leniart, and for the Jags to pull out an upset over the shell shocked Texans. Jacksonville 14 Houston 13