The Jaguars finish the regular season on
Sunday at Reliant Stadium against the Houston Texans in a division game the Texans have awarded the distinction, "Battle Red Day."
Big Game? You bet it is, for the Texans. With a win, the Texans would post their first non-losing season in franchise history. With a win, the Texans would claim their first AFC South victory of the season. With a win, the Texans could move into the offseason with the idea they are on the verge of becoming a playoff contender.
The Jaguars will be doing little more than playing out the string on Sunday. They could post their second 12-4 record in the last three years, and they could even their division record at 3-3, but is any of that really important?
What's most important for the Jaguars in a game that will have no effect on their playoff position is that they come out of Sunday's game healthy and ready to begin the postseason. Even though coach Jack Del Rio wants his team's focus to be squarely on the game in Houston, could you blame the Jaguars if they're looking ahead?
"We want to go deep into the postseason. We don't want to just show up," quarterback David Garrard said earlier this week.
Garrard is one of several players who are expected to see little if any playing time on Sunday. Running back Fred Taylor is expected to watch from the sideline.
"You just play hard. When you start worrying about getting injured, that's when you get injured," running back Maurice Jones-Drew said.
The Jaguars are locked in the number five seed in the AFC playoffs. They will play in either Pittsburgh or San Diego in a wild-card round game next weekend.
"Getting to the playoffs was one of our goals. It's been a great season so far," Jones-Drew said.
It hasn't been a great season for Houston, but it has the potential to be their best season. New quarterback Matt Schaub and the emergence of former first pick of the draft Mario Williams as a pass-rusher have given the Texans legitimate hope for the future.
Schaub got off to a fast start this year, but he then lost star wide receiver Andre Johnson for an extended period of time, and he injured his shoulder at Tennessee on Dec. 2. He hasn't played since but may play against the Jaguars.
Williams' 14 sacks validate his selection at the top of the 2006 draft and quiets criticism of the Texans for not selecting Reggie Bush.
"He's been playing good all year long. He's turned into a hell of a pro," coach Gary Kubiak said of Williams. "He plays the run and the pass both well. We're trying to build our defensive football team around him and DeMeco (Ryans) and we went and got Amobi (Okoye)."
How close are the Texans to becoming a playoff contender?
"We haven't won in the AFC South all year long so that tells you how far we have to go, but we're making strides. To get to where (the Jaguars) are, where the Colts are, is a big, big step and we're going to keep working until we get that step taken," Kubiak said.
This will be perceived as a stepping-stone game for the Texans, regardless of how many Jaguars reserves play. The Texans are desperate to step out of the ranks of the losers and win at least one division game this season. The Jaguars almost certainly will be facing an inspired opponent.