NFL Wire News

Jaguars strive to finish strong


JACKSONVILLE — The Jacksonville Jaguars insist they’re not going to play out the string in the final game of the season at Houston even though there’s not much at stake for team.

They’re currently in the third slot in the draft at 3-12 behind both Tampa Bay and Tennessee, who are both 2-13, and the Jaguars don’t have a shot at one of the first two picks if those two teams lose in their finales.

Still, an upset victory over Houston would enable them to finish the season with two consecutive victories and give them some positive momentum for next year. It would drop them no lower than sixth in the draft order.

Last year, they were 4-9 and lost their last three games. They’d like to finish on a stronger note this time.

“In our team meeting rooms, we’re talking to players that this game is an important game for us as far as building a mindset,” coach Gus Bradley said. “We talk about some objectives we want to get accomplished and how we’re going to go about accomplishing those objectives comes back to our core principles and our philosophy. We put it to a challenge last week and we’re putting in the challenges this week.”

When he was asked to describe the challenges, he said, “That’s in house.”

Of course, the challenge was easier last Thursday night when they were facing Tennessee, which has won just two games. Now they’re facing a Houston team that is 8-7 and still alive in the playoff hunt.

And they lost to Houston at home, 27-13, on Dec. 7.

The difference this time is that Ryan Fitzpatrick is hurt and Case Keenum will get the start at quarterback. Last year, Keenum started two games against the Jaguars and the Jaguars won both of them.

But Keenum led the Texans to a victory at Baltimore last week. And Fitzpatrick wasn’t a big factor in the Texans victory in the first game. He passed for only 135 yards. Their problem was that they couldn’t stop Arian Foster, who ran for 127 yards on 24 carries.

The Texans also shut down the Jaguars’ rushing game in the first meeting, holding Denard Robinson, who’s now on injured reserve, to 30 yards on 10 carries and Toby Gerhart to 19 yards on five carries. Jordan Todman had 11 yards on three carries.

If Jacksonville can’t stop Foster and have problems running the ball, the Jaguars could be on their way to losing the finale and finishing with a 3-13 record.

The Jaguars insist they are a better team, but a 3-13 record would be one game worse than the 4-12 record they posted in the first year of the Dave Caldwell-Gus Bradley regime.

It would then put pressure on them to make the team more competitive next year.

Owner Shad Khan has been very patient and has indicated he has a lot of confidence in their rebuilding program, but they will need to show more results next year.

–This is the 26th regular-season meeting between the Jaguars and Texans. Houston leads the series, 14-11. The last three years, one team has swept the series. The Texans won both games in 2011 and 2012 and Jacksonville won both last year. The Texans won the first game on Dec. 7 and are going for the sweep this year. The key to the Texans victory was that they outrushed the Jaguars, 173-74 with Arian Foster rushing for 127 yards.

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