Jaguars-Texans Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 26, 2011
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Coach Gary Kubiak knows his first-place Houston Texans have a long way to go before they can start thinking about their first AFC South title. A few more stellar performances against divisional foes would get the Texans closer to that point, and the expected return of star receiver Andre Johnson could help them produce another such game Sunday against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars. After dropping three of four, Houston (4-3) got back on track with a 41-7 rout at Tennessee last Sunday. Matt Schaub had a career-best 147.7 passer rating in that game while completing 18 of 23 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns. Running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate each topped 100 yards rushing as their team finished with a season-high 222 after failing to crack 100 in each of its previous two games. Foster added 119 yards receiving and matched a career high with three total TDs in helping the Texans overtake the Titans for the division lead. "I don't really look at (leading the AFC South) too much. We've got so far to go," Kubiak said. "Obviously, we feel good coming out of (last weekend). We played very well. We've got another division game coming up right here, but I think we better just stay focused on what we're doing week to week right now." Houston has outscored divisional opponents 75-14 in two games, and it didn't have Foster and Johnson on the field together for either. The Texans are expecting that luxury this week after the All-Pro wide receiver practiced fully Wednesday, appearing set to return from a right hamstring injury that's kept him out of the lineup since Oct. 2. They're also hoping to get fullback James Casey back from a strained chest muscle, but safety Danieal Manning will miss at least four weeks after breaking his left leg in last week's win. "Are we excited to get (Johnson and Casey) back? You bet, because I think it does make us tougher to defend," Kubiak said. "We do have a lot of options and the versatility of James in what we do and knowing how people play Andre, yeah, you want those two guys back on the field. Hopefully, they're back there this week." Johnson had 146 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions during a 31-24 loss to the Jaguars on Nov. 14 but sat out last season's second matchup with a nagging ankle injury that later required surgery. With Johnson out, Foster rushed for 180 yards to secure the league's rushing title and lead his team to a 34-17 season-ending victory, which snapped a series-high three-game skid against Jacksonville. This time, the Texans will face a Jaguars team that just ended its longest losing streak in eight years. Jacksonville (2-5) snapped a five-game skid by holding Baltimore to 146 yards during a 12-7 victory Monday night. Josh Scobee converted all four field goal attempts - three from more than 50 yards. The Jaguars ranked 28th in yards allowed and 27th in points allowed per game in 2010, but they're in the top 10 in both categories this season. "We need to win some more and the next opportunity we have to do that is go down and play a divisional opponent in the Houston Texans, who are sitting on top right now," coach Jack Del Rio said. "Getting our energy back and going down there and playing well on the road and getting a victory, that's what it's all about right now. "The division right now, you don't have Indy that's sitting there at 7-0 or 8-0 running away with things. There is definitely an opportunity for everybody involved to put some wins together and have a shot." The Jaguars haven't dropped back-to-back games against the Texans since 2006, but they're 2-6 in their past eight trips to Reliant Stadium. With rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert still getting comfortable in the NFL, the Jaguars might lean on running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the league's second-leading rusher with 677 yards. Jones-Drew fumbled three times on Monday night - losing one - but he has 295 rushing yards, five touchdowns and no fumbles in his last three games against Houston.
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