NFL Preview - Jacksonville (0-2) at Houston (1-1)
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The last time the Houston Texans played the Jacksonville Jaguars, it was the team's first time in the national spotlight. If Matt Schaub can repeat his performance from last week, Houston should continue to get some mass coverage.
Fresh off a career game, Schaub will lead hosting Houston this Sunday at Reliant Stadium against a Jacksonville squad still in search of its first win of 2009.
After getting blown out by the New York Jets to open the season, the Texans found themselves in danger of dropping to 0-2 after falling behind 21-7 early in the second quarter against the Tennessee Titans. However, a career-high four touchdown passes from Schaub, including a 72-yard score to Andre Johnson, and a 23-yard field goal by Kris Brown with under three minutes to go rallied Houston to a 34-31 victory.
The win helped the Texans, who posted a disappointing 8-8 mark a year ago, prevent from falling into an early season hole similar to the one 0-2 Jacksonville now faces.
The Jaguars, who are meeting the AFC South rival Texans for the first time since Houston made its Monday Night Football debut last December, have dropped their first two games of the season for a second straight campaign. On Sunday, they will try to avoid going 0-3 for the third time in club history and the first since 2003.
Jacksonville struggled with ball control in last weekend's 31-17 home loss to Arizona. A blocked field returned by the Cardinals for a touchdown and a Troy Williamson fumble that resulted in another Arizona score helped put the Jaguars into a 24-3 halftime deficit they could not overcome.
A David Garrard fumble in the third quarter, one of three times the quarterback put the ball on the field, led to another Arizona touchdown. Although he responded with a pair of touchdown passes afterward, it wasn't enough.
Jacksonville now visits a Houston club that is 12-5 at home since 2007, tied for the fourth-best mark in the NFL over that span. The Texans' defeat to the Jets in Week 1 did come at Reliant Stadium, however.
Houston leads the all-time series with the Jaguars, 8-6, including a conventional split of last year's home-and-home. The Texans were 30-27 overtime losers when the teams met in Jacksonville in Week 4 of last year, but exacted revenge with a 30-17 home win over the Jags in Week 13. The Jaguars are 0-3 in Houston since last winning there in 2005.
Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio is 5-7 versus the Texans all-time, including 1-5 in Houston. The Texans' Gary Kubiak is 4-2 against both Del Rio and the Jaguars as a head coach.
WHEN THE JAGUARS HAVE THE BALL
After managing to not turn the ball over once in its Week 1 loss to Indianapolis, Jacksonville fumbled four times versus Arizona -- losing two of those gifts -- to go along with an interception by Garrard (404 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT), who was sacked four times by the Cardinals but still managed to complete 23-of-43 attempts for 282 yards and second-half touchdown passes to tight end Marcedes Lewis and wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker. He also had a fourth-down, fourth-quarter pass dropped by receiver Nate Hughes. Sims-Walker found the stat sheet for the first time this year, making a career-high six catches for 106 yards. Wide receiver Torry Holt added six receptions for 65 yards, while Lewis had three catches for another 62 yards. Sims-Walker could have an expanded role this week, with Williamson landing on injured reserve Wednesday due to a shoulder injury suffered versus Arizona. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew (163 rushing yards, 1 TD) was held to just 66 yards on 13 carries and added four catches for only 17 yards.
Houston comes into this contest with something to prove, as its defense is last in the NFL after having allowed 911 yards over the first two games. The unit allowed 449 yards to Tennessee, as Titans running back Chris Johnson torched the Texans for 197 rushing yards, 87 receiving yards and three long touchdowns, including a 91-yard scoring scamper. The Texans did record two turnovers in the game, while defensive end Mario Williams (11 tackles) notched his first sack of the season and the first for Houston in 2009. Williams totaled three sacks versus the Jaguars last December. Rookie linebacker Brian Cushing (18 tackles) led the team in tackles for a second straight week with 10, while middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans (17 tackles) was right behind him with nine. Safety Eugene Wilson (4 tackles) posted his first interception of the season last weekend and Houston's second pick of the year. The Texans were without starting defensive tackle Shaun Cody due to a knee injury, but hope to have him back this weekend.
WHEN THE TEXANS HAVE THE BALL
After being held to just seven points and 183 yards of offense versus the Jets, the Texans broke out against the Titans. Schaub's four touchdown passes tied the club's single-game mark, and he also totaled 357 yards on 25-of-39 passing to earn AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Andre Johnson (14 receptions) also emerged after getting shut down by the Jets, hauling in 10 passes for 149 yards with his first two scoring receptions of the season. With wide receivers Andre Davis (concussion) and Kevin Walter (hamstring) both sidelined last week, Jacoby Jones, who pled guilty on Wednesday to a DWI stemming from a 2008 incident, caught his first-career TD pass and posted a career-best 73 receiving yards. Tight end Owen Daniels (10 receptions) also caught a touchdown pass and ended with six catches and 72 yards. Running back Steve Slaton, who tagged Jacksonville for 130 yards rushing and two scores the last time these clubs met, was held to just 34 yards on 17 carries and has a mere 51 rushing yards without a score through two weeks. A milestone is likely to come to an end for Houston this week, as left guard Chester Pitts is reportedly going to miss the rest of the season due to a sprained MCL suffered against Arizona that required surgery. Pitts had played in every game in Texans' history, a string of 114 straight starts.
Although the Jaguars have a turnover differential of plus-1 and lead the AFC with three recovered fumbles, they have struggled on the defensive side of things. They allowed 365 total yards in their Week 1 loss to the Colts, then yielded another 383 versus the Cardinals. Most of that damage has come through the air. The Jags failed to get pressure on Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner, who was 24-of-26 passing for 243 yards and set the NFL's single-game completion percentage record. Linebacker Justin Durant (20 tackles) led the Jaguars in tackles for a second straight week, notching nine to go along with a forced fumble. Linebacker Daryl Smith (16 tackles), safety Reggie Nelson (13 tackles) and cornerback Derek Cox (9 tackles) all ended with six tackles, with Smith also forcing a fumble. Cox, one of four rookie starters for Jacksonville, suffered a concussion versus the Cardinals but should be able to play this weekend. Corner Rashean Mathis had five tackles and recovered a fumble in the loss to Arizona.
Schaub, Andre Johnson and Daniels owners should be happy to see the Jacksonville defense, which ranks 24th in the NFL in total yards allowed and has given up 279.5 yards per game through the air in the season's first two weeks. Slaton could also be ready to break out given his previous performance versus the Jaguars, but needs the Texans' woeful defense to keep the club in the game. Like Slaton, Jones-Drew has gone off on Houston before, having notched a career-high seven catches against the Texans back in 2006 and totaling a personal-best 184 total yards against them in 2007. Hopefully he can reward fantasy owners this weekend. Garrard could be a sleeper due to Houston's poor defense thus far, increasing Holt and Sims-Walker's value. Sims-Walker is worth keeping an eye on due to Williamson's season-ending injury. If you haven't figured out already, neither defense is worth consideration.
After getting embarrassed in Week 1, the Texans finally put forth the kind of game that has them as a sleeper pick to make the playoffs. Now it is up to Houston to find some consistency against a desperate Jacksonville club that does not want to fall to 0-3. With neither defense performing well thus far, this game could tilt towards the offense. That favors the Texans, who should pick up home win No. 1 this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texans 27, Jaguars 21
09/24 17:35:25 ET