It's become a tradition. The Houston Texans wear red jerseys when they host the Jaguars. The Texans call them their "battle red" jerseys and Monday night's game at Reliant Stadium has officially been dubbed "Battle Red Day," in which the Texans are 3-1 in such games against the Jaguars.
Monday's game will mark the fifth consecutive year the Texans and Jaguars will have played in a "Battle Red" game. The Texans began the promotion against Carolina in 2003 and have a 6-2 overall record in such games, but the game has pretty much settled into a Jaguars-Texans thing and the Jaguars would like to spoil the Texans' fun on national television.
The Texans have been a Jaguars tormentor since coming into the league in 2002. In 13 games between the two teams, the Texans have won seven and the Jaguars six. Texans coach Gary Kubiak shrugs off the whole "Battle Red"/tormentor storyline.
"I'm in here trying to figure out how to get a first down, so I don't know what we're wearing," Kubiak said.
Maybe that's why the Texans have become so good at getting first downs. Their offense is on a roll, having risen to fourth in the league in total yardage and sixth in first downs per game, despite the loss of starting quarterback Matt Schaub for the past several weeks.
Kubiak said Schaub is close to returning to action, but Sage Rosenfels is a capable backup and he has the NFL's leading receiver in receptions and yards, Andre Johnson. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, however, credited rookie running back Steve Slaton with having opened up the Texans offense.
"I think the guy that's made it all kind of possible is their running back. I think Slaton has done a great job making their play-action pass a little more believable with his ability to run the ball," Del Rio said.
Slaton has rushed for 774 yards and six touchdowns. He's averaging 4.9 yards per carry and he's also caught 32 passes for 198 yards and one touchdown. A third-round pick from West Virginia, he is one of the steals of this year's draft.
This game could turn out to be a showcase of multi-purpose running backs. The Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew is coming off a nine-catch, 113-yard receiving performance in which Jones-Drew established himself as the Jaguars' big-play receiver.
The loser of this game will fall into sole possession of last place in the AFC South. The Jaguars began the season with Super Bowl hopes and the Texans with hope of making the playoffs, so, neither team is going to be satisfied with its finish.
"I thought we've made progress as a football team. We made a lot of progress last year. We were excited going into this season and we have struggled. We went through a very tough start the first month, not only football-wise but personal-wise, too, around here with some things going on with hurricanes. We'd like to be in a heck of a lot better shape than we are but there's a lot of football left and we're looking forward to the next five weeks," Kubiak said.
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio has had to answer similar questions about finding motivation.
"This is a production business. We're paid to produce so we're going to work hard at it. I know what it looks like to be on a great team and I know what it looks like to be on a team that's struggling. We're somewhere in the middle," Del Rio said.
What happens on Monday night and in what remains of this season will define the 2008 season for both teams.