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Five things to watch: Texans vs. Jaguars


Here are five things to watch when the Texans (8-1, 2-0 AFC South) take on the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8, 1-2 AFC South) on Deep Steel Sunday presented by Capital One Bank at Reliant Stadium in Week 11. Kickoff is Sunday at noon CT.

1. Trap game?: The Texans are tied for the best record in the NFL. The Jaguars are tied for the worst record in the NFL. This has all the makings of a so-called "trap game," but the Texans are having none of it.

"I don't even know who invented that term," Texans running back Arian Foster said on Wednesday. "They obviously have never played in the NFL before. Jacksonville is a talented team, and we're focused. We have a goal in mind. The first part of that goal is this Sunday against Jacksonville."

The Texans' defense ranks top-three in scoring, yards, passing and rushing. The Jaguars' offense ranks bottom-three in each category. The Texans have allowed 15.9 points per game while the Jaguars have scored just 14.1. The Texans have allowed 281.6 yards per game while the Jaguars have gained an average of 263.6.

Houston has won four consecutive games against Jacksonville, the longest streak in the all-time series. They dominated Jacksonville 27-7 at EverBank Field in Week 2, allowing a franchise-record 117 yards in the victory.

2. Ball control: The last time the Texans played the Jaguars, they set a franchise record with 43:17 in time of possession.  Arian Foster and Ben Tate combined for 184 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

The Texans had 83 offensive plays and had 411 yards against the Jaguars in Week 2. Foster or Tate got the ball on 50 of those plays (60.2 percent) and combined for 244 yards (59.4 percent).

Tate will not play this week, missing his third consecutive game with a hamstring injury. Justin Forsett will be the backup to Foster, who ranks third in the league 872 yards and has scored a touchdown in every game this season. Forsett had four carries for 27 yards last week at Chicago, including a 25-yard run that set up the Texans' only touchdown of the game.

3. Texans pass rush: The Texans didn't have a sack last week for the first time since Week 13 of last season against Atlanta. That's unlikely to happen again this week. The Jaguars have allowed 25 sacks, sixth-most in the league, while the Texans have 25 sacks of their own.

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt leads the NFL with 10.5 sacks. He does not have a sack in the last two games but had nine tackles, 1.5 sacks, two passes defensed and a fumble recovery against Jacksonville in Week 2, earning AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He had two sacks and seven tackles at Jacksonville last season.

Outside linebacker Connor Barwin had a team-record 4.0 sacks at Jacksonville last season. Barwin led the AFC with 6.5 sacks last November and has two sacks and nine quarterback hits in the last three games.

4. Rushing defense: If the Jaguars look to their running game to take pressure off Gabbert, they could be in for a long day. The Texans rank third in the league in rushing defense (85.6 yards per game) and have not allowed a rushing touchdown all season.

Jaguars Pro Bowl running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who led the league in rushing last season, will not play this week because of a foot injury. Rashad Jennings has started the last three games but has only 40 carries for 131 yards (3.3 average) with zero touchdowns in that span.

The Texans limited Bears running back Matt Forte to 39 rushing yards on 16 carries (2.4 average) last Sunday. They have allowed more than 70 rushing yards to only one player this season (Chris Johnson, Week 4).

5. Sharpton's return: Inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton will make his 2012 debut on Sunday after being activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list on Saturday morning. Sharpton suffered a season-ending quadriceps injury last Oct. 30 against, ironically, the Jaguars at Reliant Stadium.

Tim Dobbins is questionable for Sunday's game with a shoulder injury. He will be a game-time decision. If Dobbins does not play, Sharpton's return will be even more significant as the Texans only have two other inside linebackers in Bradie James and Barrett Ruud.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak said Friday that Sharpton is ready to contribute on special teams and defense. A fourth-round draft pick in 2011, Sharpton rotated with DeMeco Ryans in the first eight games of last season before he was injured against the Jaguars.

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