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Setting the table: Key matchups, players for Texans-Jaguars


The buzz

The buzz is that the buzz needs to get louder.

If there's a prevailing feeling around the Jaguars this week, that's it – that while a historic victory over the New York Giants Sunday was memorable and needed, it was just one victory.

The Jaguars rallied from a 21-point first-half deficit for a 25-24 victory over the Giants at EverBank Field. It was the largest deficit the Jaguars have overcome to win in their 20-year history, and featured a dominant defensive second-half performance that included four sacks, three takeaways and two defensive touchdowns.

It also was the first come-from-behind victory for rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.

As important, it was an emotional victory for a team that had lost four consecutive games since a Week 7 victory over Cleveland, not to mention an important victory for players who believed they had improved this season and that they are a better team than a 2-10 record indicates.

The Jaguars' focus entering the season's final month is to build on the victory, to play more consistently. That's especially true of an offense that struggled against the Giants before a 55-yard game-winning drive set up a 43-yard field goal by kicker Josh Scobee with 28 seconds remaining.

The task defensively? Maintain its high level. The unit has produced nine sacks and forced eight fumbles in the last two weeks, and two fumble recoveries for touchdowns were critical in the second-half rally Sunday.

The Opponent

The Texans still have playoff hopes, but barely.

The Texans (6-6) are one game out of the final AFC Wild Card spot, but six teams are tied for that spot at 7-5. That means the Texans may need to win out and hope for help to return to the playoffs after finishing with the NFL's worst record last season.

The Texans can still win the AFC South, but a Jaguars victory Sunday and a Colts victory will eliminate the Texans from the division race and clinch the title for Indianapolis.

The Jaguars swept the Texans in the second half of the season a year ago, but this is a different Houston team. In the first season under Head Coach Bill O'Brien, the Texans have improved offensively, ranking fourth in the NFL in rushing. They rank 23rd in passing, but Ryan Fitzpatrick set a franchise record with six touchdown passes this past Sunday in a victory over Tennessee.

The Texans are also tied for the NFL's second-best takeaway/giveaway ratio at plus-11. Arian Foster has rushed for 901 yards and seven touchdowns on 180 carries this season.


Three matchups to watch

*Jaguars right tackle Josh Wells or Sam Young versus Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.You can't play Houston without accounting for Watt, the NFL's best defensive player, and a threat to change the game on every play. This matchup is tricky under any circumstance, but making it more difficult for the Jaguars is that right tackle Austin Pasztor is likely out for the season with a ruptured hamstring. Watt lines up all over the line but his primary spot is left end. That means lining up often across from Watt will be Wells – a rookie free agent – or Young, a fifth-year veteran who has been inactive the last six weeks.

*Jaguars pass rush versus Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.Fitzpatrick threw a career-high six touchdown passes in a victory over his former team, the Titans, this past Sunday. That makes pressuring Fitzpatrick key for the Jaguars – and it means the Jaguars' best, most-consistent area again needs to play well. The Jaguars' front has been key to a pass rush that has been consistently disruptive this season. The Jaguars rank third in the NFL with 37 sacks. They also have eight forced fumbles in the last two games, and could need a similar game Sunday.

*Jaguars middle linebacker J.T. Thomas and safety Johnathan Cyprien versus Texans running back Arian Foster.This isn't a true one-on-one matchup, but stopping the run is key for the Jaguars. It wasn't until the defense slowed Giants running back Rashad Jennings this past Sunday that the pass rush changed the game. Foster is sixth in the NFL and averages five yards per carry, so until you stop him you don't stop the Texans.

Jaguars to watch

*Bortles, quarterback.He remains the Jaguars' must-watch player, and on Sunday he gave observers something to see with his first come-from-behind victory. Bortles' was confident and calm on the game-winning drive, passing for 39 yards and rushing for 31. The game also was Bortles' first without an interception, continuing the rookie's recent trend of improved ball security. Bortles still has significant strides to make, and the offseason likely will focus on honing footwork and fundamentals, but Sunday was a positive step.

*Marqise Lee, wide receiver.The hope when Allen Robinson sustained a season-ending foot injury two weeks ago was that Lee would embrace the opportunity and improve. So far he has done that. Playing as the third receiver, Lee led the Jaguars in receiving against the Giants. He was particularly important in the second half, catching a 30-yard touchdown pass and turning a slant into a critical 22-yard catch-and-run first down. That's a good start toward a strong finish to his rookie season.

*Aaron Colvin, cornerback.The rookie fourth-round selection not only returned a fumble 41 yards for a go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown Sunday, he played strikingly well at nickel corner. In just his second NFL game after missing the first 10 games of the season while recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Colvin was graded by coaches as making an impact on nearly 25 percent of his plays. Head Coach Gus Bradley said in time the team could look at Colvin on the outside but that for now he will remain at the nickel.

Keep an eye on …

*Bortles underwent an MRI Monday because of shoulder inflammation, and also sustained a left ankle sprain against the Giants. The team on Monday said the MRI came out "good," and that Bortles is expected to practice this week and should be "ready to go" Sunday. …

*Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch left Sunday's victory over the Giants after re-aggravating a groin injury that kept him out the last four games. He has not been ruled out to practice or play this week. …

*Reserve linebacker Khairi Fortt sustained a hamstring strain against the Giants and is unlikely to play on Sunday. …

*Backup running back Toby Gerhart sustained a left shoulder contusion against the Giants and will be monitored throughout the week. …

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