Vandermeer's View: Act II begins


If the Texans win Sunday they'll be three games above .500 for the first time in the O'Brien era and for the first time in four years. More importantly, it leaves them with seven games left in which a 4-3 finish would put them at 10-6.

But notice I wrote 'if.' That's because there are no 'inside the leather' gimme putts in the NFL. Houston will have to earn this one and I'm here to tell you it won't be easy.

Yes, Jacksonville's record is an anemic 2-6. But at least their most recent outing reveals some things that would indicate they have the juice to give your Texans real problems on Sunday.

The Jags ran for 205 yards at Arrowhead stadium. New offensive coordinator Nathanial Hackett likes to utilize the ground game. Jags observers say the team was previously lacking an offensive identity even though they acquired 2015's leading AFC rusher, Chris Ivory, in the off season. In Hackett's first game at the controls they ran a season-high 32 times.

The Texans were better against the run in the Detroit game. Now they have to do it on the road. They also have to deal with Blake Bortles' ability to run the ball. You might recall a Bortles 34-yard scramble late in the 2014 season finale that gave Jacksonville a first and goal with less than two minutes left.

The Texans held on for a victory and winning season but it was a snapshot of what can happen with a quarterback who can run as well as pass. Bortles ran for over 50 yards last week.

Here's another stat for those of you who might think this should be a walk in the park. The Jags defense has held Andrew Luck, Aaron Rogers, Phillip Rivers, Derek Carr and Joe Flacco all below 235 passing yards. So a break out game from the Texans' aerial attack is hardly a lock. Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue have to saddle up for a productive day.

Turnovers will be a significant story on Sunday. Neither team is setting the world on fire in the takeaway department. Houston has just two takeaways in the last six games. While Jacksonville is in a four game drought.  Both quarterbacks are looking to play a clean game. Crispness in the Houston passing game is a must. If Jacksonville gets an early boost off a turnover or two they have the talent to put together a winning performance.

Plus, we're back in the division, where no one is afraid of anyone else. There's great familiarity with most of the personnel and not too many surprises.  It's time to lift the curtain on act two of the season. And the opening number is bound to have a lot of drama and intensity.

Check out the best photos from Wednesday's practice as the Texans got back to work after the bye week.

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