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Eye on the opponent: Houston Texans

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THE SKINNY

The skinny with the Texans is they're in good shape for the postseason.

That's the case even with free-agent quarterback Brock Osweiler struggling – and even with three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt out for the season with a back injury.

They've also overcome early-season road struggles to reach the midway point of the season 5-3 – and a game and half clear of Indianapolis (4-5) and Tennessee (4-5) in the AFC South.

"I like that we're No. 1 our division," Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. "That's the thing I like most about the team right now."

The Texans, who won the AFC South last season, have won their last seven division games and have a four-game winning streak against the Jaguars. They are coming off the bye, and are 2-0 after the bye under Head Coach Bill O'Brien.

Osweiler, who signed as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason from Denver, has completed 176 of 297 passes for 1,719 yards. He has nine touchdown passes but also has thrown nine interceptions.

Hopkins, after emerging as one of the NFL's top receivers with 111 receptions for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, has 40 receptions for 434 yards and three touchdowns this season.

The Texans are strong defensively even without Watt. They rank second in the NFL in pass defense and have yet to allow a 300-yard passer, but they rank 28th in the NFL against the run.

"We have been inconsistent stopping the run, so we have to do a great job of coming in there ready to stop the run," O'Brien said.

THE STATISTIC

When the Texans have struggled this season, it has been on the road – and in a big, big way. The Texans' three losses this season have come at New England (27-0), Minnesota (31-13) and Denver (27-9). Those are three of the better teams in the NFL with a combined record of 18-7.

 

OFFENSIVELY …

While Osweiler has struggled at times, Houston's running game has been one of the NFL's best. Running back Lamar Miller, who signed as an unrestricted free agent from Miami in the offseason, is seventh in the NFL with 637 yards rushing on 153 carries. "He's done a lot," Hopkins said of Miller. "Just the way he's been running the ball, those big games are everything. What he's been doing has been helping us a lot to be where we are right now."

… DEFENSIVELY

Blake Bortles isn't expecting much complexity Sunday. The Jaguars' quarterback said while the Texans are dangerous defensively even without Watt, the Houston pass rush is less about trickery and more about winning matchups to create pressure. "Their big thing is they want to bring five guys and make sure they're one-on-one up front with everybody," Bortles said. "That's kind of their MO and they do a good job of creating reads and looks to get you in one-on-one protection stuff. Then they play coverage. For us it will be, 'When we're in those looks and opportunities, can we hold up up front five on five?' Then when we get opportunities let's do some different things to slow those guys down and find different ways to get the ball out." Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus has 4.5 sacks this season, and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney both have three sacks for the Texans.

THE MATCHUP

A key Sunday may not be as much a one-on-one matchup as the matchup of the Jaguars' defense versus the Texans' offense – and specifically whether the Jaguars can exploit the Texans' propensity for turnovers. The Texans through eight games have committed 13 turnovers, including Osweiler's nine interceptions. The Jaguars, who have just three sacks in the last four games, have created a league-low four turnovers defensively this season.

 

QUOTABLE I

"You're not going be able to complete every pass and I'm not going to be able to catch every catch even though I want to. This is a new offense for him so I don't expect the guy to come in and master this offense through the first eight games and I hope others don't either."

---Hopkins on Osweiler's transition into the Texans' offense

QUOTABLE II

"If he's got time to set and throw, I think he's really accurate at his intermediate throws and they do a nice job of organizing the scheme and that kind of stuff so he has some success. But he's a big man, so he sees the field real well with levels one and levels two and he's completed a lot of those balls."

--Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash on Osweiler

QUOTABLE III

"There has been improvement with the whole offense and I think that includes Brock. We have shown flashes of being the type of offense we want to be, but it clearly is not enough and none of us are happy where we are offensively. Brock has done a really good job of coming in here and really pouring himself into learning our offense and I think that hopefully over the second half of the season you'll see our offense get better."

--O'Brien

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