The Texans have beaten the Jaguars six out of 11 times, turning Sunday's meeting into a bitter grudge match. On Thursday, the Texans prepared for a physical Jacksonville team that is looking to even up the series.
Going big: The Texans swept their series against the Jaguars last year, fanning the fires of an AFC South rivalry.
"You get tired of that team sticking you in the side, especially when you think you're supposed to beat them," Jaguars running back Fred Taylor said. "That's when I learned, don't think that way. This is the NFL."
Taylor and his teammates certainly changed their tune in Jacksonville earlier this season, pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 37-17 victory over the Texans. The Jaguars led only 16-9 after three quarter with all Houston's points coming on field goals by Kris Brown. In the final period, rusher Maurine Jones-Drew ignited a scoring spree, including a 57-yard touchdown run.
"They just play pretty hard-nosed football," said tight end Owen Daniels, who has caught 96 passes for 1,118 yards and seven touchdowns this season.
"They're a pretty physical team. They run the ball really well with two really good running backs. They're pretty solid upfront on the defensive side of the ball. They haven't been making a lot of mistakes lately."
The Texans are focusing on playing tougher defense upfront to stop the running tandem of Jones-Drew and Taylor.
"They're going to come in here, and their mentality is to run the ball - run the ball, just smash-mouth football," cornerback Fred Bennett said. "They are a very physical team. We've got to come to play. We've got to bring our big boy pads."
Mario stays super: The team's premier big boy has been showing up all season. Defensive end Mario Williams is the only player in the NFL with at least one sack in his last six games, and his 14 sacks this season is only second to Seattle's Patrick Kerney.
Williams wouldn't mind being the league leader.
"I mean, anybody would like to lead anything," Williams said. "Whatever position they're playing, they would like to lead something.
"We'll just see what happens."
Becoming the NFL sack leader could also make Williams the strongest candidate for the coach's pick in the Pro Bowl.
Regardless, Kubiak likes what his 2006 No. 1 draft pick has done this year. Williams has seven games with at least four tackles and he has been in on 55 tackles. The defensive end has been making most of his plays behind the line of scrimmage, which will in Sunday's game.
"Our purpose was to build a defensive football team," Kubiak said. "To go get a player of his stature and athletic ability that you know is going to play for you in 12 to 13 years and do that at a high level, you can't find guys like that.
"The amount of money you spend on that player, the step you take when you stand up and take that player is amazing. Boy, we feel good about this kid. He's going to be doing it for a long, long time."
Scoring points: Getting points on the board hasn't been a problem for the Texans, especially when it comes to the passing game. Quarterbacks Sage Rosenfels and Matt Schaub have thrown for 3,576 yards and 23 touchdowns.
"We've scored some points," coach Gary Kubiak said. "We've moved the ball. We've gotten better in the majority of the categories in the game, which is a good thing. But it also just tells you that there is another step to take. We've scored some points and we've also turned the ball over at an enormous rate."
Midway through the season, the Texans led the NFL in turnovers. They've protected the ball better on offense late in the season, but they have 37 turnovers and their minus-13 turnover margin is the next-to-worst in the league.
"If you get rid of those, we should have put a lot more of points on the board," Kubiak. "That's something positive to looks forward to."
Another mark of offensive progress has been the individual play of Rosenfels, who has thrown 14 touchdowns this season. The quarterback needs just two more touchdowns to tie the team record of 16 in a season set by David Carr in 2004.
Rosenfels, of course, has been helped by an offensive line led that has allowed only 21 sacks this season, dropping from 43 last year.
"We held together upfront, and right now I think we are sixth in the league in sacks," Kubiak said. "Boy, that's a big step from a couple of years ago. Those guys held have held up well and the quarterbacks have had a lot to do with that."
Injury outlook: Kubiak named Rosenfels the starting quarterback Thursday and said that Schaub will still be a game time decision. Schaub will most likely get surgery on his left shoulder in the offseason,, but would like to finish with the team as a backup to Rosenfels.
For now, Schaub is just trying to remain positive.
"It's a marathon is a season, and you've got to deal with the good and the bad and the ups and the downs and just keep plugging away and keep working at things," Schaub said. "Good things will happen for you if you remain positive and keep that mentality and that mental toughness."
Things don't look so bring for defensive end Anthony Weaver, who did not participate in practice. Weaver will probably miss his last game with a shoulder injury and defensive end Earl Cochran is expected to start in his place.
Running back Ron Dayne, tackle Eric Winston, wideout Andre Johnson and linebacker DeMeco Ryans all participated in practice after sitting out the previous day.
Injury report: For the Texans' official injury report, **click here**.