JACKSONVILLE – This one doesn't need overemphasizing.
The Jaguars will play the Houston Texans Sunday at NRG Stadium in Houston. It's late November. Both teams are hot. Both teams are confident.
Perhaps most important: Both teams can be in first place if they win.
"It's obviously a meaningful football game," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday morning as the AFC South-leading Jaguars (7-3) prepared to play the Texans Sunday at 1 p.m.
"I think everybody knows that without really speaking it verbally."
The Jaguars, who won the division last season and who have won six of their last seven games, would take a two-game lead over the Texans with six games remaining in the regular season with a victory. The Texans (6-4), who have won six of eight games beginning with a 37-17 victory at Jacksonville in Week 3, would tie the Jaguars for first place with a victory.
Because of that Week 3 victory, a victory would give the Texans the season-ending head-to-head division tiebreaker.
"This is huge," Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "There's plenty of motivation for this game. We're getting down here at end of the season. Every game you play has implications, especially when you get to this point. We've got seven games left. It's a tight race in our division overall. Every game matters."
Said running back Travis Etienne Jr., "We know how big this game is going to be, but we just have to go out there and execute."
Pederson said the importance of the game goes beyond end-of-season scenarios, with the Texans playing perhaps their biggest game since 2019 after winning three games last season.
"There are still some division games left with a lot of things can play out," Pederson said. "They (the Texans) haven't had this experience in a few years. This is great for Houston and obviously the organization to feel that sort of playoff atmosphere.
"We have to match intensity. This team beat us up pretty good in the first matchup. It's going to be a great football game."
The Texans, who have won 10 of the last 11 meetings between the teams, took a 17-0 halftime lead in the Week 3 meeting and the Jaguars never again got closer than a touchdown. Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud threw two touchdown passes in a game in which the Jaguars had a field goal blocked, missed a field goal and allowed an 85-yard kickoff return by fullback Andrew Beck.
"You definitely go back and look at it; I've already watched it a couple of times," Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk said. "The big takeaway is the way we played: the turnovers, the lack of execution, penalties and so forth. You also can see how far we've evolved and the type of team we are now compared to then.
"You go back, get a taste of what that was like and you use it as motivation going into the game."
The Jaguars committed two turnovers in the Week 3 loss, failing to score on four first-half possessions past midfield, and communications errors in the secondary led to two long passes by Stroud – one of which set up a touchdown and one of which came on a 68-yard game-clinching touchdown pass from Stroud to wide receiver Tank Dell.
The Texans, after entering that game 0-2, have lost just twice since – each time by two points. They have won their last three games since with more than 400 total yards offense in each game.
"They're playing really good football right now," Lawrence said. "They have a good, young team. They beat us here pretty bad, so it's a team where obviously there's motivation to beat them. We remember what that felt like, dropping a division game earlier in the season and not playing well.
"We all know what's at stake. There's no hiding, you're not going to pull any fast ones on anybody. We all know kind of how big this game is and what it could mean."
- Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell did not practice Wednesday because of a hamstring injury. Campbell sustained the injury in a Week 6 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, then missed two games before a Week 9 bye week. He reinjured the hamstring in a Week 10 loss to San Francisco 49ers and did not play in a victory over the Tennessee Titans this past Sunday. Pederson on Wednesday called Campbell "kind of day to day" this week, adding: "He'll get some work in this week to see where he's at." Wide receiver Zay Jones, who played Sunday against Tennessee after missing four consecutive games with a knee injury, practiced limited with the injury Wednesday and defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris practiced limited with an ankle injury he played through against Tennessee.