NFL Preview - Houston (1-0) at Jacksonville (0-1)|
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Arian Foster dusted off a balky knee to help the Houston
Texans open their AFC South title defense with a win in Week 1 of the 2012
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak still wasn't happy with his team's effort in the
30-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins last Sunday.
"The biggest thing I was disappointed in offensively was how we ran the ball,
which wasn't very good at all, and how we finished on the one-yard line and
how we finished the game the last couple drives," Kubiak said during his
Monday press conference. "I think that's a mark of a good team. Everybody
knows you've got to run it to finish a game, (and) you still line up and run
it. We didn't do that (Sunday)."
Kubiak, who said after Sunday's game he wouldn't sleep well that night, should
be rested for this weekend's division showdown on the road against the
Houston amassed just 83 yards rushing yards in its first game of the season
after finishing second in the NFL with an average of 153.0 yards per game on
the ground in 2011. Kubiak said it's tough to determine an image in the season
opener, but the Texans have been known as a running team for sure.
Foster battled through a sore knee and didn't practice the Friday before the
game, and came out unscathed after amassing 79 yards and two touchdowns on 26
He was optimistic about his team's performance, but expressed there's still
more work to be done.
"When you win a game by that much and you still have a lot of mistakes, it
just shows how good of a team you can be," Foster said. "We're still
optimistic. We're going to go fix our mistakes and get ready for
The Texans were the only team in the AFC South to come out victorious in Week
1 and will try to start 2-0 for a third straight season. They also are slated
to play two straight and three of their next four games on the road.
Jacksonville lost its season opener for the first time since 2009 and hasn't
opened a campaign with back-to-back defeats since then.
The Jaguars suffered a heart-breaking 26-23 overtime loss at Minnesota last
week in the debut of head coach Mike Mularkey. They grabbed a three-point lead
when second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert hooked up with Cecil Shorts III on
a 39-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left, but the defense broke down and
the Vikings capitalized with a game-tying 55-yard field goal by Blair Walsh on
the final play of regulation.
Walsh then hit a 38-yarder early in overtime for the win.
Mularkey hopes the game will serve as a learning experience.
"I thought we could have played better than we did, but even with that, for us
to have a chance to win when we didn't play our best, I thought was a positive
sign for this football team.
"I just told them, 'We need to get over this one.' Just like you need to get
over wins, we need to get over losses and move on to the next one as quickly
as we can and not let this disappointment affect next week's game, which is
very important for us."
Any division game is important because it all adds up at the end of the
season, and the Jags' defense better be ready for Houston's weaponry in their
home opener this weekend. The Jaguars were strong early on in stopping
Minnesota's offense and quarterback Christian Ponder, who passed for 270 yards
with no touchdowns or interceptions after a strong second half.
Ponder's counterpart, Gabbert, looked sharp in his first game of his second
NFL season, completing 23 of his 39 attempts for 260 yards with a pair of
touchdown passes and no interceptions. He'll attempt to get wide receiver
Justin Blackmon more involved this week after the rookie had just three
catches for 24 yards against Minnesota.
The biggest story for Jacksonville's offense was the return of Pro Bowl
running back Maurice Jones-Drew. A holdout for all of the team's offseason
activities and preseason, he proved to be still in game shape by running for
77 yards on a team-best 19 touches.
With Jones-Drew back and Foster healthy, Sunday's matchup will feature two of
the best running backs in the AFC.
Texans lead 11-9
Streak: Texans have won last three meetings
2011 Meetings: Texans 24, Jaguars 14 (Oct. 30 at Houston)
Texans 20, Jaguars 13 (Nov. 27 at Jacksonville)
Texans HC Gary Kubiak vs. Jaguars: 7-5
Jaguars HC Mike Mularkey vs. Texans: 1-0 overall, 0-0 with Jacksonville
Kubiak vs. Mularkey Head-to-Head: First Meeting
Notes: Texans halted a four-game losing streak in trips to EverBank Field with
last November's victory. Jacksonville's last win in the series was a 31-24
home decision in 2010 that was decided on a last-second 50-yard Hail Mary pass
from then-quarterback David Garrard to Mike Thomas. Mularkey led Buffalo to a
22-7 triumph over visiting Houston as the head coach of the Bills in 2005.
BY THE NUMBERS
Offensive Team Rankings
Houston: 17th overall (337.0 ypg), 19th rushing (83.0 ypg), 16th passing
(254.0 ypg), 9th scoring (30.0 ppg)
Jacksonville: 16th overall (355.0 ypg), 15th rushing (113.0 ypg), 17th passing
(242.0 ypg), 16th scoring (23.0 ppg)
Defensive Team Rankings
Houston: 8th overall (275.0 ypg), 11th rushing (79.0 ypg), 9th passing (196.0
ypg), 1st scoring (10.0 ppg)
Jacksonville: 23rd overall (389.0 ypg), 23rd rushing (123.0 ypg), 19th passing
(266.0 ypg), 20th scoring (26.0 ppg)
Houston: +4 (4 takeaways, 0 giveaways)
Jacksonville: 0 (1 takeaways, 1 giveaways)
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (offense)
Houston: 50.0 percent (6 possessions, 3 TD, 3 FG) -- 14th overall
Jacksonville: 33.3 percent (3 possessions, 1 TD, 2 FG) -- 23rd overall
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (defense)
Houston: 0.0 percent (3 possessions, 0 TD, 1 FG) -- 1st overall
Jacksonville: 50.0 percent (4 possessions, 2 TD, 2 FG) --11th overall
WHEN THE TEXANS HAVE THE BALL
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (266 passing yards, 1 TD) completed 20 of his
31 pass attempts against the Dolphins, and his performance was apparently good
enough to earn a contract extension. Schaub's deal was set to expire at
season's end, so the Texans locked him up to the reported tune of four years
worth $62 million with $24.75 million guaranteed. Schaub, who was sacked just
twice by Miami, expressed his gratitude to the organization after the game,
saying, "I'm excited to continue my career here in Houston." He has a great
supporting cast led by top wide receiver Andre Johnson (119 receiving yards, 1
TD), who hauled in eight passes to lead the way last week. Johnson missed
several games last season with hamstring issues, but appears back to his old
self. Perhaps a 100-yard effort this week from Foster (79 rushing yards, 2 TD)
will suffice for Kubiak when Houston takes on a Jags team that allowed 123
rushing yards against Minnesota. Adrian Peterson had 84 of those yards and
netted two scores coming off an injury for the Vikings. Texans rookie tackle
Derek Newton, part of a rebuilt right side of the line, had a decent first
start in the opener, but the team still has some work to do up front.
The Jaguars were missing two defensive starters in linebacker Daryl Smith
(groin) and cornerback Derek Cox (hamstring) last Sunday, and hope to have
both back this week. Kyle Bosworth replaced Smith at linebacker against
Minnesota and will most likely do so again if need be. He started all four
preseason games in Smith's place as well. Safety Dawan Landry (8 tackles) led
the team in tackles against the Vikings, while middle linebacker Paul
Posluszny (7 tackles) had one of his unit's four passes defensed. The Jaguars
must improve on defense with a potent Texans squad coming into EverBank Field,
and the first order of business is to stop Foster, who had 177 yards and two
scores on 55 carries in two games against the Jags last season. Jacksonville
runs a 4-3 defense and tackle Tyson Alualu (4 tackles) is the team's top run
stuffer. Ends Austen Lane (foot) and George Selvie (knee) are not expected to
WHEN THE JAGUARS HAVE THE BALL
Gabbert (260 passing yards, 2 TD) made strides in his first start of the
season, and the Jaguars can only hope it gets better from here. That still may
take a while, however, since a few offensive lineman such as guards Eben
Britton and Uche Nwaneri are nursing injuries. Right tackle Cameron Bradfield
also departed last week's game, leaving Mularkey saying how the team was
"scrambling with bodies." Jacksonville had 20 first downs and 362 yards of
total offense in the opener, and displayed some solidarity with several long
drives kept alive by Gabbert. The young quarterback was sacked just twice and
made Shorts (4 receptions, 74 yards, 1 TD) a popular fantasy football pickup
this week. The young wide receiver took headlines away from offseason
acquisition Laurent Robinson (5 receptions, 66 yards) and rookie Blackmon (3
receptions). Tight end Marcedes Lewis (5 receptions, 1 TD) had the other
touchdown catch for Jacksonville. Jones-Drew (77 rushing yards) was close to
back to form following his 38-day holdout, and last year's NFL rushing
champion is poised to improve against Houston. It's uncertain if backup Rashad
Jennings (31 rushing yards) will be healthy after he departed the Minnesota
game with a knee injury.
The Texans intercepted Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill three times
last Sunday, with defensive backs Johnathan Joseph (5 tackles) and Kareem
Jackson (5 tackles), and linebacker Brian Cushing (7 tackles) coming away with
the picks. Cushing also had one pass defensed and one forced fumble before
leaving the game with sore ribs. It was the same issue that slowed him during
the preseason. Cushing, the Texans' defensive captain, did practice this week
and will be ready for Jacksonville. Reserve linebacker Tim Dobbins suffered a
neck injury last week, but is also not expected to miss Sunday's game. The
same goes for backup outside linebacker Bryan Braman, who was out with a
hamstring injury against Miami. Houston will be aiming to slow down Jones-
Drew, who compiled only 162 yards and a touchdown in two games in this series
last season. Dolphins running back Reggie Bush had 69 yards on 14 carries
against Houston, which registered eight passes defensed.
The Jaguars are still a work in progress and could take a page or two out of
Houston's book on developing talent. Gabbert, however, played well last week
even though a ton of pressure was laid upon his young shoulders, but he still
needs some polishing. Blackmon didn't have the debut he would have imagined,
but there are 15 more games for that to change, and Jones-Drew appears ready
for the long haul and will keep this game close for Jacksonville. The Texans
are the cream of the crop in a weak AFC South, however, and have too much
firepower for the Jaguars to keep up with. Schaub just signed a new deal and
would enjoy nothing more than to solidify the guaranteed millions headed his
way by leading his team to another win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texans 27, Jaguars 13
09/13 16:58:23 ET