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Competing still matters


To Paul Posluszny, what was important before is still important.

So, while on the surface and on the outside the Jaguars may have comparatively little for which to play Sunday – and for the final five weeks of the season, for that matter – the Jaguars middle linebacker said he chooses to see beyond the surface.

A divisional rival? A home game in November?  A chance to play one of the NFL's best offenses, and one of its best teams?

Those things always matter, Posluszny said. And they still matter now.

"For us, it's a division game – to me, all that stuff still matters regardless of record," Posluszny said as the Jaguars (3-7) prepared to play the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (7-3) at EverBank Field in downtown Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.

"We're professionals and we're going to act like it. It's a division game at home, and regardless of our record or what we can and can't do in the playoffs, we're still going to compete at a high level."

The Jaguars, after a season-opening victory over the Tennessee Titans, have lost seven of their last nine games. As a result, despite a 2-1 record in the AFC South, they are on the brink of official elimination from not only the AFC South, but from the overall playoff chase.

That makes Sunday's game a stark contrast to not only what the Jaguars expected from this game at the start of the season, but from the mood when the Texans and Jaguars played in Houston on October 30.

When the Jaguars took the field in Houston that day, they did so knowing a victory would pull them to within a game of first place in the division.

On Sunday, a victory would keep them alive, but would still leave them three games behind the Texans with five games remaining.

"We have to keep fighting," Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "Right now, we're in a spot we obviously didn't want to be in, but at the same time, we have to keep fighting, keep playing. Everybody is upbeat in here."

Lewis said the reason for that is despite the record, the Jaguars believe they are a good team, certainly one that does the things on and off field necessary to win.

"We're doing the right things," Lewis said. "We're just not seeing the fruits of our labor, but that shouldn't discourage us from continuing to do the right things around here. We're going to finish, be professionals about our business and keep pushing forward."

Sunday's game is the latest in what in recent seasons has been a series of tight games, and the teams' second meeting in less than a month.

The Jaguars and Texans have met 19 times, with the Texans leading the series 10-9. The Jaguars have won the last four games in the series at EverBank Field, including last year when they beat Houston, 31-24, on a last-play Hail Mary from David Garrard to Mike Thomas.

The Texans beat the Jaguars, 24-14, in Houston on October 30. The Jaguars entered that game with a chance to pull to within a game of Houston with a victory, but the Texans pulled away from a 7-7 tie at halftime in a game in which Houston out-gained Jacksonville 358-174.

"It's not about redemption," Lewis said. 'It's about us playing our ball. If we play our ball, nothing else really matters. We have to go out and do what we do best – that's be physical, run the rock and make our plays."

Each team enters Sunday with injury issues. The Jaguars will be without five defensive starters – end Matt Roth, tackle Terrance Knighton, linebacker Clint Session and cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox. Session and Cox were placed on injured reserve this week.

The Texans will be without starting quarterback Matt Schaub, with Matt Leinart – the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner – making his first NFL start since 2009 when he was with Arizona.

"It's not tricky for us," Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said of preparing for Leinart rather than Schaub. "We're going to do what we do and they'll do what they do."

Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars' running back and the NFL's second-leading rusher, said mostly what the Jaguars need to do is figure out a way to turn close losses into victories. The Jaguars this season have lost three games by seven points or less and in their last six losses, they have been within four points at some point in the second half.

"I can only think of one game that was bad, and that was (a 32-3 loss in Week 2 to) the Jets," Jones-Drew said. "Hopefully, we can figure out a way to get this thing rolling, carry on, and hopefully work to get better at the end."

And Jones-Drew said however disappointing the results so far, when it comes to motivation, "There's always a carrot at the end."

"If you're not playing for this team, you're playing for the next team," he said. "There's always something you're playing for. Regardless of what our record is, regardless of how things are going, you're playing to compete against the guy you're going against.

"In the back of his mind, I want him to know that every play – regardless of what the record is – that dude is going to come out here to try to destroy me. That's how it should be. That's what the highest level is about.  Regardless of what the record is, or how it works out, I have to give it my all because I know he's going to give it his all."

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