Under the bright lights of a primetime game, the Texans will be looking to break their 10-game losing skid as they face Jacksonville for the second time in 11 days. The Jaguars are 3-1 in their last four games and have won two-straight against AFC South opponents.
1. Slow-Mo the MoJo
The Texans will look to stop, or at least slow down, Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew had a season-best 84 rushing yards in the teams' first meeting on November 24. He scored on the opening drive, making it his third-consecutive week with a touchdown, and finished with 144 yards from scrimmage.
Jones-Drew has rushed for 11 touchdowns in his career vs. the Texans, which are his most against any team in the NFL. On Thursday night, Houston will get a second chance to thwart Jones-Drew and the Jaguars run game.
"We have to tackle better, for one. Two, be in better position on the run plays that they had because sometimes we were out of position and they made a couple of big plays, especially the long run that he had," inside linebacker Joe Mays said.
2. Defense, Watt, Repeat
The Texans defense would like a repeat of Week 12 when Jacksonville was held to a season-low 13 points and Chad Henne was sacked four times. J.J. Watt recorded a sack for a fifth-consecutive game, as well as a team-high nine tackles, two tackles for a loss, five quarterback hits, and a blocked field goal.
"He's so disruptive and we saw it first hand in our guy," Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley said of Watt. "He is a guy that you have to be aware of where he is on the field. Like I said earlier to you guys, to run to him or run away from him or how to protect against him, it creates issues for us, in our run game and our pass game."
3. A Game of Inches
Houston has won its last six games by a combined 22 points. Jacksonville has won three of its four by seven points or less. Seven of the 11 matchups at EverBank Field in the all-time series have been decided by seven points or less.
A big play from either special team or the defense could be the tipping point for Texans win.
"I don't know that I've ever been through that, one-score games for that going on," head coach Gary Kubiak said. " And we've had the ball, in a lot of situations; they're just one big play. But just seems like we get into those close games and, when there's a play to be made, we're not making it. The other team is. Whether it's a turnover or whether it's a big play offensively to end the game. The only way you're going to make them is if you keep going back there and find a way to do it."
4. Keep on Running
Against New England, Houston's strategy was to run early and often. It worked. Ben Tate rushed for 102 yards and three touchdowns. Case Keenum rushed for a touchdown. The Texans offensive line hopes to maintain their intensity and success with the run game heading into Thursday night on the heels of a short week.
"Looking at the outing we had against Jacksonville the last time, it was probably our worst performance of the year," Duane Brown said. "It's very important to go out and get the bad taste out of our mouth. We know we are going to go against a physical bunch so we have to have a great amount of intensity, a great amount of physicality, throughout the four quarters."