The Jacksonville Jaguars are in position to clinch their first playoff spot since 2007 when they host the Houston Texans on Sunday. The Jaguars have made an improbable rise from last season’s 3-13 record and sit atop the AFC South by one game over Tennessee.
Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone is aware of the excitement regarding the probable postseason spot, but he repeatedly refused to discuss the possible clinching. “Right now, I’m trying to keep this team focused on today - preparing today for (the Texans),” Marrone told reporters. “That has been the way it’s been all year. I understand it. I’ve got to do questions and everything, but I promise you: None of you is going to be able to take me there.” Houston is experiencing a dreadful season that began with being thumped 29-7 by the Jaguars and will be starting third-string quarterback T.J. Yates on Sunday. “He’s been there before,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien told reporters. “He knows our system. He’s a smart guy. ... It’s not hard to get him ready, you know what I mean?”
TV: 1 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Jaguars -11.5. O/U: 39
ABOUT THE TEXANS (4-9): Injuries to Deshaun Watson (knee) and Tom Savage (concussion) have created the opportunity for Yates, a 30-year-old with eight career touchdown passes - including two after Savage’s departure in last Sunday’s 26-14 loss to San Francisco. Star receiver DeAndre Hopkins (88 receptions for 1,233 yards) caught both of Yates’ TD tosses to raise his season total to an NFL-leading 11. The defense is allowing an average of 25.8 points while suffering without J.J. Watt, but fellow defensive end Jadeveon Clowney ranks second in the league with 20 tackles for losses - including nine sacks.
ABOUT THE JAGUARS (9-4): Cornerback A.J. Bouye is tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions and is part of a defense that leads the league in scoring defense (15.5 points per game), takeaways (30) and sacks (47) while ranking second in total defense (291.6 yards). Brash cornerback Jalen Ramsey (four interceptions) draws the task of slowing down Hopkins, while defensive end Calais Campbell has recorded a career-best 12.5 sacks, which also is a franchise record. Quarterback Blake Bortles is enjoying a solid season with 2,821 yards and 16 touchdowns against eight interceptions, while Leonard Fournette is 77 yards away from joining Fred Taylor (1,223 in 1998) as the lone running backs in franchise history to rush for 1,000 as a rookie.
1. The Jaguars ended a six-game losing streak in the all-time series when they recorded 10 sacks en route to the convincing victory on Sept. 10.
2. Hopkins recorded 149 receiving yards versus San Francisco for his fifth 100-yard performance of the campaign.
3. Jacksonville LB Telvin Smith cleared the concussion protocol and will play Sunday after missing the previous two games.
PREDICTION: Jaguars 30, Texans 9