Houston -15 over Jacksonville:
The Texans aim for a fifth consecutive victory over the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars, who try to avoid matching their longest losing streak in franchise history Sunday. Houston (8-1) made quite a statement last Sunday night, pulling out a gritty 13-6 win at Chicago to remain two games ahead of second-place Indianapolis in the division. While the Texans were limited to a season-low 215 yards, their stifling defensive unit came up huge again with a season best-tying four turnovers. Giving up averages of 281.6 yards and 15.9 points to rank second and third in the league, the Texans made things especially difficult on the Jaguars (1-8) during a 27-7 road win Sept. 16, holding them to a franchise-low 117 yards.
Tied with Kansas City for the league's worst record, the Jaguars are averaging 12.5 points during a six-game losing streak. Jacksonville, which suffered seven consecutive defeats during its inaugural 1995 season, saw its woes continue last Thursday with a 27-10 loss to the Colts. Maurice Jones-Drew's continued absence surely hasn't helped the Jaguars, who won't have their All-Pro running back for the fourth consecutive game. Starting in place of Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings has compiled 131 yards on 40 carries over the last three weeks. Blaine Gabbert completed 18 of 31 passes for 209 yards with an interception last Thursday before aggravating an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. While Chad Henne was much more efficient in his place, Gabbert, whose 76.9 passer rating ranks sixth-lowest in the NFL, will continue to start.
In addition to getting a better performance from Gabbert, the Jaguars will likely need to step up their efforts against the run Sunday. Jacksonville is allowing an average of 137.4 rushing yards and has surrendered 14 TDs on the ground, the second-most in the league. The Jaguars' struggles could lead to another big day for Arian Foster, who ran for 102 yards and scored his NFL-best 12th TD from scrimmage against the Bears. Foster, who's rushed for 523 yards and six scores in five starts against the Jaguars, may not need to shoulder all of the load Sunday with Ben Tate possibly returning following a two-game absence due to a hamstring injury.
All signs in this one point to a blowout, which is good news for the Texans considering they may be able to rest their starters as this one progresses. With a first round bye at stake, Houston will send Jacksonville to double-digit losses for the third time in five seasons behind a stout defensive effort and a revived pass attack. Foster is at full strength and perhaps on his way to a rushing title which at season's end will only make the AFC's best even more dangerous to contend for the Super Bowl.