JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines key players, matchups and storylines as the Jaguars prepare to play the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday
The buzz is there's not too, too much buzz left.
The Jaguars (5-10), after spending two months on the cusp of the AFC South title chase, had their final remaining postseason chance end Sunday even before they lost to the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans. That happened when the Houston Texans (8-7) beat the Tennessee Titans.
What's left for the Jaguars for the 2015 regular-season finale?
Pride. A chance to finish with their best record since 2010. Whatever momentum can or can't be gained from a final-game victory. Statistical milestones.
There are also plenty of individual players needing to play well in the final regular-season game – all the better to make final favorable impressions on the Jaguars' front office and front offices around the NFL.
The Texans haven't clinched the AFC South title yet, but they're very, very close.
The Texans can clinch a third division title in five seasons with a victory over Jacksonville Sunday, and they also will clinch over Indianapolis if any of the following teams win on Sunday: Tennessee, Cleveland, San Diego, New Orleans, the New York Jets, New England, Cincinnati or Kansas City.
After a 1-4 start, the Texans have won seven of their last 10 games.
Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer hasn't started since December 13, but he is in the final stages of the NFL's concussion protocol. Texans Head Coach Bill O'Brien said Hoyer will start Sunday if he is cleared to play. If Hoyer can't start, Brandon Weeden likely will make his second consecutive start for the Texans. Weeden, claimed off waivers in early November, became the Texans' fourth starting quarterback of the season Sunday.
O'Brien said before Monday Night's game that he would play starters in the regular-season finale whether or not they had clinched a playoff appearance.
Matchups to watch
*Jaguars pass rush versus Hoyer.This is a tough matchup for the Jaguars no matter the opponent. They rank 17th in the NFL with 35 sacks, but their trouble affecting quarterbacks with four down linemen has allowed too many big plays and contributed to their being last in the NFL in third-down defense. That problem arose in a Week 6 Texans victory at EverBank Field, a game in which Hoyer completed 24 of 36 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions while being sacked once. His 119.3 rating that day was his best of the season.
*Jaguars cornerback Davon House versus Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.This was a key Week 6 matchup and figures to be so again. House shadowed Hopkins in October, and played well for the most part until allowing two fourth-quarter touchdowns. He was demoted for a week, but has been the Jaguars' most productive cornerback since returning to the starting lineup. Hopkins finished with 10 receptions for 148 yards and the two touchdowns in Week 6. He has six 100-yard games and made the Pro Bowl this season.
*Jaguars left tackle Luke Joeckel/right tackle Jermey Parnell versus Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.Joeckel and Parnell both are dealing with injuries, Joeckel with back/knee soreness and Parnell with a hamstring injury that prevented him from returning against New Orleans. Watt, who has 13.5 sacks this season, lines up all over the field, so he will face both Jaguars tackles. He has been playing with a broken hand, but recorded a sack against Tennessee Sunday.
Jaguars to watch
*Blake Bortles, quarterback.Bortles' numbers continue to impress, and his 35 touchdowns are a dramatic improvement from 11 as a rookie last season. He also has thrown 16 interceptions this season, one shy of his rookie total. Bortles threw two interceptions in the first half against New Orleans. Though the area continues to need improvement, his overall development this season has been marked.
*Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, Jaguars wide receivers.The second-year veterans along with Bortles have become the core of the Jaguars' offense, becoming the youngest duo in NFL history to both reach/surpass 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in a season. Robinson has caught 75 passes for 1,292 yards and 14 touchdowns while Hurns has 61 receptions for 1,013 yards and 10 touchdowns.
*Julius Thomas, tight end.Thomas for the most part has been featured in the offense in recent weeks, catching 27 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns in a five-game span covering Weeks 11-15. With the Jaguars' offense struggling early against New Orleans, Thomas caught just two passes for 12 yards.
Keep an eye on …
*The following Jaguars players sustained injuries against the Saints: defensive end Tyson Alualu (ankle), Joeckel (knee/back soreness), defensive tackle Abry Jones (knee soreness), defensive end Jared Odrick (quad contusion) and Parnell (hamstring).
Parnell and Odrick left the game, while the others finished despite their injuries. Running back T.J. Yeldon (knee) and linebacker Telvin Smith (shoulder/finger) missed the Saints game, which was the second consecutive missed game for Yeldon.