The Jacksonville Jaguars prevailed in a scramble for a fumble to beat the Houston Texans earlier this season. That could be the difference in which team has the better chance of emerging from a logjam in the AFC wild-card race.
Following another poor effort on the road, the Jaguars look to win their fifth straight at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium and sweep their season series with the Texans on Sunday.
Though Jacksonville (6-5) lost 20-3 at San Francisco last Sunday, it remains in playoff position. The Jaguars wouldn’t have a hold on the second wild-card spot if not for a 31-24 win over the Texans (5-6) on Sept. 27.
Jacksonville recovered Houston running back Chris Brown’s fumble in its own end zone with 2 minutes left, ending one of several chances the Texans had to tie the game.
Houston is in a tie with three other 5-6 teams and trails two 6-5 clubs besides Jacksonville.
Neither team has much room for error. While the Texans likely have to win their final five, the Jaguars have games remaining against unbeaten Indianapolis and AFC East-leading New England.
Three straight home games should help the Jaguars’ cause. They’ve won four in a row in Jacksonville since a 31-17 loss to Arizona on Sept. 20.
“Everybody plays better at home,” defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison(notes) said. “You’re just more comfortable. You’re not in a strange locker room. You stay right close to the facility the night before and all that. We just have to play better.”
The Jaguars fumbled twice, missed two field goals and allowed six sacks against the 49ers. Jacksonville abandoned the run for the most part after trailing 17-3 at the half, and Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) was held without a touchdown after scoring eight times in his previous five games.
The NFL leader with 13 rushing TDs, Jones-Drew had 119 yards and three scores in this season’s first matchup with the Texans.
David Garrard(notes) was efficient in that game, completing 60.0 percent (18 for 30) of his passes without a touchdown or an interception. He threw for 307 yards against San Francisco, but Jacksonville managed three points in four trips inside the red zone.
“We’ve got to do better execution in critical situations,” guard Uche Nwaneri(notes) said. “That’s the bottom line. … Everybody’s out there playing hard. David’s out there trying to make plays and you can never get mad at somebody trying to make plays.”
Houston was held to seven points in the second half of a 35-27 loss to the Colts last Sunday, blowing a 17-point lead. It was the third straight defeat for the Texans, who lost both of their previous games by three points.
“A lot of people in this building are working very hard, coaches, people in this building that deserve some success and those players are a big part of that,” coach Gary Kubiak said.
Houston faces three straight teams with losing records following this game, but it closes the season against the Patriots.
The Texans have shown they can play tough against good teams. Still, their inability to finish off those games will likely keep them out of the playoffs.
“It’s like we are at this hill and we keep getting to the top and we just keep rolling back down,” wide receiver Andre Johnson(notes) said. “Somehow we’ve just got to find a way to get over it and that’s the biggest thing right now.”
Johnson has been held to 20 catches for 242 yards and one touchdown in five games at Jacksonville.
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