Texans can clinch division title by beating Jaguars
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The Houston Texans would guarantee themselves an AFC South title and a home playoff game if they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in Houston on Sunday.
The Texans (10-5) clinched a playoff berth last Sunday despite their 32-30 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now the Texans turn their attention to the Jaguars (5-10), who beat the Dolphins 17-7 last week but have lost nine of their last 11 games. That slump includes a 20-7 loss to the Texans on Oct. 21 in Jacksonville.
"We have a great opportunity," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said. "Our fans are going to be fantastic on Sunday. We've got to go do it. Like always, you're going to write whatever you're going to write and I know that you're going to write that they're a 5-10 team and all of that, but throw the film on."
O'Brien points to the Jaguars' talented defense led by Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell, Myles Jack and Telvin Smith.
Jacksonville ranks fifth in the NFL in both total defense and scoring defense, yielding 19.7 points per game.
The Jaguars are making a change at quarterback, going back to Blake Bortles as their starter.
Bortles was benched in favor of Cody Kessler five games ago, but he came off the bench to lead the victory over the Dolphins, and this week Jaguars head coach Doug Marone said Bortles would start the season finale.
Marrone said he is making the move because Bortles' mobility gives the Jaguars a better chance to win against a "very tough" Texans team.
But the last time the Jaguars faced Houston, Bortles was benched in the third quarter after passing for just 61 yards and losing two fumbles.
The Jaguars signed Bortles to a three-year, $54 million contract in February, believing he could be the long-term answer at quarterback. Now it's not clear.
"I just work here, man," Bortles said this week. "I signed up for three years and until those three years are up or they let me go, I'll play when they need me."
Last year, Bortles led the Jaguars to a 10-6 regular-season record and two postseason wins, but this season the Jaguars are just 3-8 in games he started.
"Everything you need to be a successful team and win a Super Bowl in this league is in this locker room," Bortles said.
Meanwhile, the Texans have received solid quarterback play from Deshaun Watson.
He has completed more than 70 percent of his passes in each of the past five games and has thrown eight touchdown passes with no interceptions in that span.
Watson had to take the bus to Jacksonville for the teams' first meeting because he had a collapsed lung and injured ribs. He was just 12 of 24 for 139 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in that game.
Asked about his health for this week's game, Watson said, "I don't have a collapsed lung or a broken rib, so I guess pretty darn well. I feel good, feel solid, able to do everything I want to do and participate, wake up every morning healthy and in good spirits."
He must produce one more time on Sunday.
"There's not really pressure for me or anything because every game is a must-win," Watson said. "Every game I want to win. So, for me, I'm not used to losing, like I said before, and every game, I put that mindset in my head that we must go in and win. We understand the stakes of this game is the opportunity to clinch, but at the end of the day, you can't focus on that. You just have to focus on your job and going out there and performing and let the game come to you. You can't put unnecessary pressure on yourself."
The teams have reversed their status during the season. The Texans started 0-3, but have now clinched a playoff berth. Meanwhile, the Jaguars began the season 3-1, but have fallen apart.
"I think teams evolve over the year," O'Brien said. "For us, I think everybody evolves. We're a little bit different. I think we're more identified as to what we are, and we have to get back to that. We have to do a better job of running the football and we've got to do a better job of stopping the run."
The individual matchup worth watching will be Jaguars cornerback Ramsey against Texans wide receiver Andre Hopkins, who is second in the league in receiving yardage with 1,425.
Updated December 26, 2018