JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' victory over the Houston Texans and forward to Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers
1.Reviewing the preview.When previewing Texans-Jaguars, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to stay focused after an emotional victory the previous week over Seattle, pressure quarterback T.J. Yates and keep pushing offensively. Check, check and a big-time check. Focus didn't seem likely to be a problem with a postseason appearance at stake, and the Jaguars' 31-0 lead after two quarters marked the largest halftime lead in franchise history. The Jaguars registered four sacks and nine hurries on Yates, and it was clear early the Texans couldn't deal with the Jaguars' pressuring front seven either pass protecting or run blocking. But perhaps most notable Sunday for the Jaguars was the constant pressure applied by their offense. Quarterback Blake Bortles passed downfield early and often, and the result was the highest-rated passing game of his career – and the Jaguars' most one-sided victory of the season.
2.As I saw it. The victory over the Texans was impressive – maybe as impressive as beating Seattle the previous week and maybe as impressive as any all season. This wasn't because the Texans were a particularly scary opponent; rather, it was because of how the Jaguars handled the moment. How often do you see teams struggle with outmanned opponents – even ones as injured as the Texans? The answer: often, because the NFL is that even. The Jaguars left no doubt Sunday and looked very much like a motivated, focused team. More than that, they looked like a team that continues to improve as the playoffs approach. The Jaguars have won seven of eight games; they're controlling games against good teams and they're finishing off struggling teams early. That's the sign of a team that can win in the postseason, and the Jaguars are showing more and more signs of that.
3.Looking ahead, briefly. Up next for the Jaguars: the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The Jaguars will be favored, but make no mistake: when Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone and players talk this week about this one being difficult they will mean it. The 49ers since inserting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo into the starting lineup have emerged as one of the league most-improved young teams. They are 3-0 in that span and are 4-1 after starting the season 0-9. The Jaguars haven't won on the West Coast since 2004. The Jaguars will have the AFC South clinched before kickoff if the Los Angeles Rams (10-4) beat the Tennessee Titans (8-6) in Nashville. If not, the Jaguars will be able to clinch their first division title since 1999 by beating the 49ers. Either way, they'll have to earn a victory Sunday.
1.Reviewing the Preview.I didn't see any way the Texans were going to roll into Jacksonville and seriously challenge the Jaguars. First, because they didn't in September when they were healthy – and second because they're a shell of that team this late in the season. I did give them a chance to make a few waves with DeAndre Hopkins and Jadeveon Clowney on either side of the ball; both of those players were visible, but neither made a difference when the game was in doubt, which really wasn't more than 15 minutes or so. It's a great win because it's a win and it clinches a playoff appearance – and it was a resounding victory in the division. But when you look at the Houston roster, you see a team that would struggle to beat the Colts … wait … they didn't beat the Colts.
2.As I saw it. Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey told us two weeks ago that applying conventional wisdom about the Jaguars to this year's team is a worthless endeavor. Sunday proved that one out. I think some folks expected the Jaguars to struggle to close out a game they were supposed to win. This team is far more talented than any we've seen in Jacksonville since 2007. They're better-coached and they play to a standard they've determined – and not down to the level of their competition.
3.Looking ahead, briefly. Sunday's game in San Francisco is another that some folks will expect the Jaguars to lose – even to a 4-10 team. They'll see the long trip west, having a playoff spot locked up, Jimmy Garoppolo as Tom Brady, etc. Not me. I've learned my lesson. The Jags have a superior roster, are significantly better in key statistical areas such as turnover ratio and rushing yards – and quite simply have much, much more to play for than San Francisco. If you listen to the key players in the locker room and look into their eyes, you see and hear a team that understands what is possible this season and are determined not to let the opportunity pass them by. I expect them to go west and return with the AFC South banner flying from the tail of their airplane.