Jaguars-Texans game lacks intensity of past meetings between the two Print
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Thursday, 27 December 2007 13:58
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 HOUSTON (AP) -Jacksonville and Houston's regular-season finale Sunday won't have quite the intensity of past meetings between these AFC South rivals.
In 2004 and 2005, the Jaguars had to beat the Texans to grab a playoff spot. Houston kept them out in 2004, but Jacksonville won the next season to get its spot.
Because the Jaguars have already clinched their wild-card playoff spot this season, there's a chance their top players could sit for some or all of this game. Coach Jack Del Rio is keeping mum on his plans.
``That will be something we take right up to the game,'' Del Rio said. ``We'll do the best job we can putting together a plan to go down there and compete on Sunday.''
If running back Fred Taylor knows the plan, he's not letting on either. However, he is not OK with the possibility of the Texans winning. The Jaguars have won six of their last seven games.
``Just being a competitor, you never want to lose at all,'' he said. ``I don't care what it's at. Considering we do have a playoff spot secure, I think it's really up to the coaches to make a decision on who's going to play how much. But bottom line, we definitely would like to win this one and would like to try to win them all.''
Though they were eliminated from playoff contention a few weeks ago, the Texans have plenty to play for Sunday. A win against Jacksonville would give them eight victories for the first time in team history.
``We don't have enough time to tell you how important it is,'' coach Gary Kubiak said. ``The key is how important it is for these guys that have to go step on the field, and they showed me (in practice) it's very important. We want to finish on the right note. We know what that means.''
Jacksonville is the only division opponent the Texans have a winning record against and a victory Sunday would keep the Texans from being swept by AFC South opponents this season.
``Sometimes it feels like that big rival you play against when you're in college,'' Andre Johnson said. ``I don't know what it is about that game. Whenever we play against them, it always has that type of feeling to it.''
While the Jaguars may sit some of their starters, several Houston starters will likely miss the game with injuries.
Quarterback Matt Schaub is still recovering from a dislocated shoulder and will miss his fourth straight start. Ron Dayne is struggling with an ankle injury that kept him out last week and could cause him to miss Sunday's game.
Defensive end Anthony Weaver will miss the game with a shoulder injury and several other players are questionable.
Kubiak has been impressed with Jacksonville's improvement from last season and thinks the biggest factor has been making David Garrard the full-time starter.
``He's been rock solid,'' Kubiak said. ``He's protected the ball. They play great defense. They run the ball with that kid. For them to be sitting there with that kid knowing he's going to be there a long, long time has to be a big key to their football team.''
Del Rio said the clarity of a clear-cut starter at the position has been important for his team and Garrard has been even better than he expected.
Garrard has thrown for 2,509 yards with 18 touchdowns and three interceptions.
``I think from a touchdown to interception ratio, it's been pretty outstanding,'' Del Rio said. ``I don't know that anybody goes in predicting something like that. We're certainly proud of what he's done thus far.''
Though they certainly respect Garrard, the Texans should be more concerned about Jacksonville's running game. The Jaguars, with their combination of Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, lead the AFC with 153 yards rushing a game.
Jacksonville ran for 244 yards and averaged more than 9 yards a carry in a 37-17 win over Houston earlier this season. Taylor has more than 1,200 yards rushing and has ran for more than 100 yards in five straight games.
``He's really been incredible,'' Del Rio said. ``I think historically, his strongest games have been in November and December and he's on another one of those tears right now for us.''
Taylor said he isn't sure why he's done so well lately, but he's been helped by the presence of Jones-Drew. He thinks the combination of them running the ball has been impressive.
``I think we have the best one-two punch in the league,'' Taylor said. ``Even if we don't, I feel that way and we're going to always feel that way.''
 

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