The Houston Texans are a team in freefall. They are without their number one receiver in Andre Johnson. Their best defensive player, Mario Williams, is out for the season. The Texans have lost four straight games and 8 of their last 9. The only team they beat since their bye week in Week 7 was the Tennessee Titans, who after beginning their season at 5-2, have lost 8 straight. The Texans are a team that have gone down the tubes at a surprising rate this season, but against a Jaguars team missing their best 3 players, this could be a very even game. How have teams beaten the Texans this season? That's what I'll be looking at today.The Texans' weakness is their defense. Point blank, the Texans have an incompetent secondary. They are the 32nd ranked pass defense, allowing an average of 277.1 yards per game through the air. More importantly they allow 27.3 points a game, the third worst in the league. The Jaguars remember from our earlier meeting with the Texans in Jacksonville the famous "Q-tip." That play was one of the many last-second collapses that have been the Texans' calling card this season. Their pass rush was powered primarily by Mario Williams, the first round pick of 5 years ago, but he has been ruled out for the last couple games of the season. Since his return from suspension, Brian Cushing has done a pretty good job at linebacker, racking up 71 tackles in 11 games. Bernard Pollard is a big asset in stopping the run from his safety position. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, the Texans rank 9th in the league in rushing yards allowed. With Maurice Jones-Drew out, Rashad Jennings will have to carry the load on the ground. He has over 350 yards rushing this season, but had a difficult time finding his holes and running with confidence last week against the Redskins.
Likely the Jaguars will have to lean on their passing game, where the Jaguars were efficient for most of the season with David Garrard behind center. Trent Edwards has only played in one other game this season and he did not play well, but at that time in the season Edwards had been with the team less than two weeks. He will have a real opportunity now to show the Jaguars why they should keep him on the team next year. After earning the nickname "Captain Checkdown" in Buffalo, Edwards will have to challenge the Texans with Marcedes Lewis down the seam and the Jaguars' newest deep threat, Jason Hill. Mike Sims-Walker is likely to play for Jacksonville, but he has had a somewhat disappointing season with only 43 catches. The Jaguars would like to run the ball, so expect the Jaguars to come out in big formations and use Greg Jones in the running game often.
The Jaguars defense was not especially effective as a whole this year, but after Courtney Greene returned to the Jaguars secondary last week the team played well against the Redskins. Houston has been an effective offense. Matt Schaub has thrown for 4117 yards this season, even with injuries to Owen Daniels and Andre Johnson. Jacoby Jones has picked up the slack in the passing game, with 492 yard on the year, including a 115 yard receiving game last week. He will likely be covered by Derek Cox, who has been the Jaguars most effective cornerback in coverage. The Texans tight ends have combined for 67 catches and 876 yards, but neither Joel Dreessen nor Owen Daniels has been a consistent performer in the passing game. The Texans will try to feed the ball to Arian Foster who has a 66 yard lead on the rushing title coming into the final week of the season. He also has 64 catches, and has a chance to be only the 6th player in NFL history with more than 1500 yards rushing and 600 yards receiving. The Jaguars defensive front is very strong in the middle with Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu. In the last game against the Texans, the Jaguars held Foster to only 56 yards rushing.
The difference between these two teams is the 4th quarter. The Jaguars have managed to come from behind and win in four games this season due to a confident offense and running game. The Jaguars have faltered recently in the 4th quarter, losing in overtime to Washington on a badly thrown interception. The Texans have been very consistent in the 4th quarter. Whenever a game is close, they have found a way to lose it. They set a record by coming back from 14 points down to tie or retake the lead and then losing four times in the same season. With injuries on both sides, the game will fall on the shoulders of the quarterbacks. As is, I would expect Trent Edwards to find some success against the Texans passing game. What will be more important for the Jaguars is running the ball effectively and forcing turnovers on defense. Two important elements in the QB battle: the Texans have allowed 32 sacks this season, and have given up 8.4 yards per pass play.
The Jaguars need to win this game to have a shot at the playoffs this season. They will need some help from the Titans, who will also be playing at 4:15. The momentum has swung against the Jaguars recently, especially on the injury front. Without their starting QB and RB, the Jaguars will have to Houston and be effective in the passing game. Can Trent Edwards help the Jaguars to a win?