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NFL Preview - Houston (1-0) at Jacksonville (0-1)
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Arian Foster dusted off a balky knee to help the Houston Texans open their AFC South title defense with a win in Week 1 of the 2012 season.
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak still wasn't happy with his team's effort in the 30-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins last Sunday.
"The biggest thing I was disappointed in offensively was how we ran the ball, which wasn't very good at all, and how we finished on the one-yard line and how we finished the game the last couple drives," Kubiak said during his Monday press conference. "I think that's a mark of a good team. Everybody knows you've got to run it to finish a game, (and) you still line up and run it. We didn't do that (Sunday)."
Kubiak, who said after Sunday's game he wouldn't sleep well that night, should be rested for this weekend's division showdown on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Houston amassed just 83 yards rushing yards in its first game of the season after finishing second in the NFL with an average of 153.0 yards per game on the ground in 2011. Kubiak said it's tough to determine an image in the season opener, but the Texans have been known as a running team for sure.
Foster battled through a sore knee and didn't practice the Friday before the game, and came out unscathed after amassing 79 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
He was optimistic about his team's performance, but expressed there's still more work to be done.
"When you win a game by that much and you still have a lot of mistakes, it just shows how good of a team you can be," Foster said. "We're still optimistic. We're going to go fix our mistakes and get ready for Jacksonville."
The Texans were the only team in the AFC South to come out victorious in Week 1 and will try to start 2-0 for a third straight season. They also are slated to play two straight and three of their next four games on the road.
Jacksonville lost its season opener for the first time since 2009 and hasn't opened a campaign with back-to-back defeats since then.
The Jaguars suffered a heart-breaking 26-23 overtime loss at Minnesota last week in the debut of head coach Mike Mularkey. They grabbed a three-point lead when second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert hooked up with Cecil Shorts III on a 39-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds left, but the defense broke down and the Vikings capitalized with a game-tying 55-yard field goal by Blair Walsh on the final play of regulation.
Walsh then hit a 38-yarder early in overtime for the win.
Mularkey hopes the game will serve as a learning experience.
"I thought we could have played better than we did, but even with that, for us to have a chance to win when we didn't play our best, I thought was a positive sign for this football team.
"I just told them, 'We need to get over this one.' Just like you need to get over wins, we need to get over losses and move on to the next one as quickly as we can and not let this disappointment affect next week's game, which is very important for us."
Any division game is important because it all adds up at the end of the season, and the Jags' defense better be ready for Houston's weaponry in their home opener this weekend. The Jaguars were strong early on in stopping Minnesota's offense and quarterback Christian Ponder, who passed for 270 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions after a strong second half.
Ponder's counterpart, Gabbert, looked sharp in his first game of his second NFL season, completing 23 of his 39 attempts for 260 yards with a pair of touchdown passes and no interceptions. He'll attempt to get wide receiver Justin Blackmon more involved this week after the rookie had just three catches for 24 yards against Minnesota.
The biggest story for Jacksonville's offense was the return of Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew. A holdout for all of the team's offseason activities and preseason, he proved to be still in game shape by running for 77 yards on a team-best 19 touches.
With Jones-Drew back and Foster healthy, Sunday's matchup will feature two of the best running backs in the AFC.
Texans lead 11-9
Streak: Texans have won last three meetings 2011 Meetings: Texans 24, Jaguars 14 (Oct. 30 at Houston) Texans 20, Jaguars 13 (Nov. 27 at Jacksonville)
Texans HC Gary Kubiak vs. Jaguars: 7-5 Jaguars HC Mike Mularkey vs. Texans: 1-0 overall, 0-0 with Jacksonville Kubiak vs. Mularkey Head-to-Head: First Meeting
Notes: Texans halted a four-game losing streak in trips to EverBank Field with last November's victory. Jacksonville's last win in the series was a 31-24 home decision in 2010 that was decided on a last-second 50-yard Hail Mary pass from then-quarterback David Garrard to Mike Thomas. Mularkey led Buffalo to a 22-7 triumph over visiting Houston as the head coach of the Bills in 2005.
BY THE NUMBERS
Offensive Team Rankings
Houston: 17th overall (337.0 ypg), 19th rushing (83.0 ypg), 16th passing (254.0 ypg), 9th scoring (30.0 ppg)
Jacksonville: 16th overall (355.0 ypg), 15th rushing (113.0 ypg), 17th passing (242.0 ypg), 16th scoring (23.0 ppg)
Defensive Team Rankings
Houston: 8th overall (275.0 ypg), 11th rushing (79.0 ypg), 9th passing (196.0 ypg), 1st scoring (10.0 ppg)
Jacksonville: 23rd overall (389.0 ypg), 23rd rushing (123.0 ypg), 19th passing (266.0 ypg), 20th scoring (26.0 ppg)
Houston: +4 (4 takeaways, 0 giveaways) Jacksonville: 0 (1 takeaways, 1 giveaways)
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (offense)
Houston: 50.0 percent (6 possessions, 3 TD, 3 FG) -- 14th overall Jacksonville: 33.3 percent (3 possessions, 1 TD, 2 FG) -- 23rd overall
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (defense)
Houston: 0.0 percent (3 possessions, 0 TD, 1 FG) -- 1st overall Jacksonville: 50.0 percent (4 possessions, 2 TD, 2 FG) --11th overall
WHEN THE TEXANS HAVE THE BALL
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub (266 passing yards, 1 TD) completed 20 of his 31 pass attempts against the Dolphins, and his performance was apparently good enough to earn a contract extension. Schaub's deal was set to expire at season's end, so the Texans locked him up to the reported tune of four years worth $62 million with $24.75 million guaranteed. Schaub, who was sacked just twice by Miami, expressed his gratitude to the organization after the game, saying, "I'm excited to continue my career here in Houston." He has a great supporting cast led by top wide receiver Andre Johnson (119 receiving yards, 1 TD), who hauled in eight passes to lead the way last week. Johnson missed several games last season with hamstring issues, but appears back to his old self. Perhaps a 100-yard effort this week from Foster (79 rushing yards, 2 TD) will suffice for Kubiak when Houston takes on a Jags team that allowed 123 rushing yards against Minnesota. Adrian Peterson had 84 of those yards and netted two scores coming off an injury for the Vikings. Texans rookie tackle Derek Newton, part of a rebuilt right side of the line, had a decent first start in the opener, but the team still has some work to do up front.
The Jaguars were missing two defensive starters in linebacker Daryl Smith (groin) and cornerback Derek Cox (hamstring) last Sunday, and hope to have both back this week. Kyle Bosworth replaced Smith at linebacker against Minnesota and will most likely do so again if need be. He started all four preseason games in Smith's place as well. Safety Dawan Landry (8 tackles) led the team in tackles against the Vikings, while middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (7 tackles) had one of his unit's four passes defensed. The Jaguars must improve on defense with a potent Texans squad coming into EverBank Field, and the first order of business is to stop Foster, who had 177 yards and two scores on 55 carries in two games against the Jags last season. Jacksonville runs a 4-3 defense and tackle Tyson Alualu (4 tackles) is the team's top run stuffer. Ends Austen Lane (foot) and George Selvie (knee) are not expected to play Sunday.
WHEN THE JAGUARS HAVE THE BALL
Gabbert (260 passing yards, 2 TD) made strides in his first start of the season, and the Jaguars can only hope it gets better from here. That still may take a while, however, since a few offensive lineman such as guards Eben Britton and Uche Nwaneri are nursing injuries. Right tackle Cameron Bradfield also departed last week's game, leaving Mularkey saying how the team was "scrambling with bodies." Jacksonville had 20 first downs and 362 yards of total offense in the opener, and displayed some solidarity with several long drives kept alive by Gabbert. The young quarterback was sacked just twice and made Shorts (4 receptions, 74 yards, 1 TD) a popular fantasy football pickup this week. The young wide receiver took headlines away from offseason acquisition Laurent Robinson (5 receptions, 66 yards) and rookie Blackmon (3 receptions). Tight end Marcedes Lewis (5 receptions, 1 TD) had the other touchdown catch for Jacksonville. Jones-Drew (77 rushing yards) was close to back to form following his 38-day holdout, and last year's NFL rushing champion is poised to improve against Houston. It's uncertain if backup Rashad Jennings (31 rushing yards) will be healthy after he departed the Minnesota game with a knee injury.
The Texans intercepted Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill three times last Sunday, with defensive backs Johnathan Joseph (5 tackles) and Kareem Jackson (5 tackles), and linebacker Brian Cushing (7 tackles) coming away with the picks. Cushing also had one pass defensed and one forced fumble before leaving the game with sore ribs. It was the same issue that slowed him during the preseason. Cushing, the Texans' defensive captain, did practice this week and will be ready for Jacksonville. Reserve linebacker Tim Dobbins suffered a neck injury last week, but is also not expected to miss Sunday's game. The same goes for backup outside linebacker Bryan Braman, who was out with a hamstring injury against Miami. Houston will be aiming to slow down Jones- Drew, who compiled only 162 yards and a touchdown in two games in this series last season. Dolphins running back Reggie Bush had 69 yards on 14 carries against Houston, which registered eight passes defensed.
The Jaguars are still a work in progress and could take a page or two out of Houston's book on developing talent. Gabbert, however, played well last week even though a ton of pressure was laid upon his young shoulders, but he still needs some polishing. Blackmon didn't have the debut he would have imagined, but there are 15 more games for that to change, and Jones-Drew appears ready for the long haul and will keep this game close for Jacksonville. The Texans are the cream of the crop in a weak AFC South, however, and have too much firepower for the Jaguars to keep up with. Schaub just signed a new deal and would enjoy nothing more than to solidify the guaranteed millions headed his way by leading his team to another win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texans 27, Jaguars 13
09/13 16:58:23 ET