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The record within the record


This week, it's not about the overall record.

The record within the record – for the Jaguars this week, that's what matters.

Which was why when the Jaguars this week discussed playing the Houston Texans, they didn't so much discuss what the game means for post-season hopes – or any big-picture, long-term ramifications for that matter.

They did what they could to focus on the controllable, the short-term, the manageable – that they are 1-0 in the AFC South and by winning Sunday, can enter the bye as the division's lone unbeaten team.

The goal? Get to 2-0 in the South.

That's it. No more.

"We understand the task at hand," tight end Marcedes Lewis said as the Jaguars (2-5) prepared to play the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (4-3) at Reliant Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m.

"It's a divisional game – a two-chinstrap game, as (Jaguars Head Coach) Jack (Del Rio) would say, and it's going to be a tough one, but we're looking forward to the challenge."

The Jaguars, after a season-opening victory over the Tennessee Titans, lost five consecutive games before turning in one of the most memorable defensive performances in franchise history on Monday, holding the Baltimore Ravens to 148 total yards of offense in a 12-7 victory.

The victory not only snapped a losing streak, it kept the Jaguars within realistic range of first place in the AFC South.

Come Sunday, one of two things will happen:

1)      The Jaguars will move even closer, and set themselves up for a bye week filled with talk of a second-half run and possible season-long contention.

2)      The Jaguars will be in a big hole.

A victory and the Jaguars will be a game behind the Texans, but perhaps more importantly, they will have a road victory over Houston. A loss? The Jaguars will be three games behind the Texans with eight remaining. That's not insurmountable, but it's not far off.

"We've continued to talk about the fact that we need to win in the division," Del Rio said. "This is the next division game; the first one was in the opener and this is the next division opponent that we face. They're 2-0 in the division, we're 1-0 in the division and it's obviously a big divisional game this weekend."

The Texans are leading the South for a reason. They're ranked in the Top 10 in the NFL in total offense and defense, and despite the three-game absence of wide receiver Andre Johnson and defensive end/linebacker Mario Williams being lost for the season, they took over first place in the AFC South last Sunday with a convincing victory over Tennessee, 41-7.

"They're playing well right now as a football team," Del Rio said. "It's a big challenge for us and an opportunity to go down there and get a divisional win. It's important. All divisional games are important and this is the next one up, very important for us."

Offensively, the Texans are one of the NFL's most-balanced teams, with a downhill, cutback running offense featuring Arian Foster and Ben Tate that sets up a play-action passing offense that Jaguars defensive end Aaron Kampman said this week said presents a matchup more difficult than Ray Rice and the Ravens a week ago.

Defensively, the Texans – as is the case with the Jaguars – have improved dramatically this season. They hired Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator, and running Phillips' 3-4 defense, they are ranked seventh in the NFL, with linebacker Brian Cushing again emerging as one of the best in the NFL at his position.

Not that the Jaguars are unaccustomed to facing elite defenses.

The Texans' game ends a difficult October stretch in which the Jaguars have played not only the blitzing defense of the New Orleans Saints, but three other defenses that have been ranked No. 1 in the NFL in yards allowed at some point in the season – Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore.

With Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert having started the last five games, the Jaguars rank No. 32 in the NFL in total offense, No. 32 in passing offense.

"Before we can worry about them (the Texans), and I say this every week, we have to control what we can control and that's how we practice, how we prepare for them and how we can execute our game plan to the best of our abilities," said Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the AFC's leading rusher through seven games.

"We have to still fix some things that we're leaking on in our offense and catch up to how our defense is playing and special teams and we think we'll be alright."

If controlling what they can control means a second consecutive victory, and if it also means being in contention at the bye, that's obviously good, too. It's just not something the Jaguars say they want to discuss. Not yet.

"It's another one we have to go win," Jaguars center Brad Meester said. "We've got to continue to take that mindset every game, focusing on one game at a time. We have to recognize this is a division game, so you have to bring an even more heightened sense of awareness."

Said Del Rio: "You guys can talk about it any way you want. This is the next game up. It's an opportunity to go down there and certainly close some distance between the division leader and ourselves.

"It's next, that's what we're preparing for, that's what we have designs on is to go down there and find a way to get a win and I really don't care to get into what-ifs."

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