Jacksonville (8-7) at Houston (5-10)

By ALAN FERGUSON, STATS Writer Friday, Dec 31, 2010 Kickoff: 4:15 pm EST Sun Jan 2, 2011

The Jacksonville Jaguars earned one of the more stunning victories in franchise history last month when David Garrard’s(notes) 50-yard pass against the Houston Texans found its way to Mike Thomas(notes) as time expired.

The Jaguars, though, won’t have Garrard and will also be without Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) as they try to reach the playoffs for the first time in three years Sunday against the Texans.

Jacksonville (8-7) remains in the postseason hunt thanks in part to Garrard’s improbable touchdown throw versus Houston on Nov. 14. The Texans’ Glover Quin(notes) batted down the long pass but hit it into the chest of Thomas, who caught the ball at the 1-yard line before stepping into the end zone.

Garrard, though, will have surgery on his right middle finger this week, which would also leave his status in doubt for the playoffs should Jacksonville make it.

For that to happen, the Jaguars need a victory and an Indianapolis loss to Tennessee to finish with their first division title since 1999.

Jones-Drew sat out a 20-17 overtime defeat to Washington last week because of an injured right knee that will probably need offseason surgery. He is among the league leaders with 1,324 rushing yards.

While Garrard’s throw in the first meeting with Houston gave Jacksonville the victory, his interception in the extra period against the Redskins helped set up the winning 31-yard field goal. Washington came in with four straight losses.

The defeat, coupled with a loss the week before to Indianapolis, has Jacksonville needing help to reach the postseason.

The Jaguars held a players-only meeting Monday as they look to avoid a third consecutive loss to the end the season. They dropped their final four games of 2009.

“We have an opportunity to go on the road, finish strong and finish with a winning season,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “Whether or not that helps us (get into the playoffs) is secondary. First and foremost, we want to go down there and get a win.”

While it may be difficult without Garrard and Jones-Drew, the Jaguars could use a better performance on the ground as they go for their fourth straight victory over Houston. They had 67 yards against the Colts and 79 last week after posting the second-best average in the league (157.8) over their first 13 games.

Garrard was Jacksonville’s leading rusher against Washington with 39 yards on six carries, while Rashad Jennings(notes) had 32 on 15 attempts. The Jaguars will now face a Texans team that’s tied for ninth against the run at 103.5 yards per game.

Jacksonville, though, has averaged 145.4 yards rushing in the last 10 matchups with Houston. The Jaguars had 165 on Nov. 14, with Jones-Drew accounting for 100.

While the Texans have been tough against the run, they own the league’s worst pass defense with 277.1 yards allowed per game. Trent Edwards(notes) will likely draw the assignment of trying to exploit it.

The veteran went 14 of 24 for 140 yards and two interceptions when Garrard left a 30-3 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 18 with a concussion. Edwards made two starts this season with Buffalo.

He has never faced the Texans, who are wrapping up a disappointing season. Houston posted the first winning record in franchise history in 2009, but losses in eight of the last nine games this year have coach Gary Kubiak on the hot seat.

The Texans (5-10) blew a 17-0 halftime lead in their fourth consecutive defeat last week, 24-23 to Denver. Houston, which has not made the playoffs in its nine seasons, is guaranteed its worst finish since going 6-10 in 2006, Kubiak’s first year.

The Texans have led or been tied in the fourth quarter of seven of the past eight games, losing all but one.

“Getting close doesn’t matter. You’ve got to win those games,” Kubiak said. “The key is to get yourself to play in games like that every week, and we’re playing in them. We’re not winning them. That’s what’s very disappointing. You have to learn to make those plays.”

Kubiak’s team will be trying to avoid its longest losing streak in four years. The Texans haven’t dropped five in a row since losing the final two games of 2005 and starting 0-3 in 2006.

Del Rio, whose job could also be in jeopardy if the Jags miss the postseason for a third consecutive time, will try to help his club to its first back-to-back wins at Reliant Stadium.

The Jaguars won 31-24 there Sept. 27, 2009 behind Jones-Drew’s three touchdowns and 119 yards rushing.

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Week 12