Eye on the opponent: Houston Texans

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THE SKINNY

The skinny with the Texans is they control their destiny for the postseason.

They also need to keep winning to secure their second consecutive division title, and to maintain what in recent seasons more and more has become a status as controllers of the AFC South.

The Texans, after three consecutive losses dropped them into a three-way tie for first in the South with Indianapolis and Houston, this past Sunday beat the Colts 22-17. That completed their first season sweep of Indianapolis in franchise history and kept Houston in a first-place divisional tie with Tennessee.

"We felt good," Texans linebacker Brian Cushing said. "We needed to get back on track. It wasn't a good feeling, especially losing at the end of the games in the way we were. We were in the fourth quarter and falling apart a little bit. We played a complete game last week on the road against a division rival and we got it done. We feel good where we are right now."

Houston will visit Tennessee in the regular-season finale January 1.

The Texans have won a franchise-record nine consecutive games against division opponents and have won five consecutive meetings with the Jaguars since Jacksonville swept the series in 2013.

While the Texans' passing offense has struggled at times this season, they are one of the NFL's top rushing offenses – and they increasingly have found an identity with running back Lamar Miller as the season has continued.

The Texans have struggled away from home this season, but are 5-1 at NRG Stadium this season with their lone loss coming to San Diego, 21-13, on November 27.

THE STATISTIC

Sunday will be Battle Red Day at NRG Stadium. The Texans are 9-4 on Battle Red Day. They are 5-2 against the Jaguars on Battle Red Day with the Jaguars' last Battle Red Day victory coming 31-24 in 2009. Houston lost to New England, 27-6, on Battle Red Day in 2015.

OFFENSIVELY …

The Texans have depended largely upon a strong running game this season – partly because quarterback Brock Osweiler has struggled in his first season as a full-time starter after signing as an unrestricted free agent from Denver. Osweiler has thrown 14 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions, but Miller ranks sixth in the NFL in rushing and the Texans rank No. 5 in the NFL in rushing as a team. "He's very talented," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said of Miller, who has four 100-yard rushing games this season. "He's a dynamic runner; he has really good speed. We have to do a better job tackling. They have so many carries, the [opportunities] increase of an explosive play happening. We have to be on it, on our fits and be on our tackling." The Texans – who have rushed for more than 100 yards as a team in 11 of 13 games this season – also have struggled in the red zone this season, ranking 31st in the NFL in touchdown percentage on drives inside the 20 and scoring just one touchdown on five such trips against Indianapolis Sunday.

 

… DEFENSIVELY

Despite playing much of the season without three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, the Texans' defense remains ranks No. 6 in the NFL in yards allowed. Linebacker Jadeveon Clowney – the No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft – had perhaps his best career NFL game with three quarterback hurries and a key late sack/strip against the Colts. "He's growing up," Cushing said of Clowney. "He's feeling more durable. He understands the length of a full NFL season now. He's definitely come into his own. He sees maturity, both on and off the field with him." Linebacker Whitney Mercilus leads Houston with 5.5 sacks this season.

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THE MATCHUP

Jalen Ramsey-versus-DeAndre Hopkins was a key matchup when these teams met last month – and that doesn't figure to change soon. Ramsey, the Jaguars' rookie cornerback, held the Texans' wide receiver to 48 yards on five receptions at EverBank Field last month, but Hopkins made a key 10-yard reception for a first down that helped Houston maintain possession and clinch the victory in the final minutes.

QUOTABLE I

"Brock has done a nice job this year. He has done everything we have asked him to do. We do a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. He is trying to get better with our offense every single week. Offensive football is about all 11 guys being on the same page and when we all have been on the same page we have looked pretty good. It just hasn't been consistent enough and we are just working to be consistent."

--Texans Head Coach Bill O'Brien on Osweiler

QUOTABLE II

"They've got a really good, sound defense. I look at Houston and they're a very overall sound team. They're very well-coached, but then they also have those dynamic guys in [Mercilus] and [Clowney], who have the ability to get on the edge and do some things. They have some things within the framework of their system that cause some major issues, the way they run stunts and man coverages and so forth. They're a really good team."

*--Jaguars offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett

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