Texans host Jaguars with first place in AFC South up for grabs

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) in action during an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov 19, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Maria Lysaker) (Maria Lysaker, AP)

HOUSTON – It’s been two months, but the Jacksonville Jaguars are still thinking about their lopsided defeat in the first meeting with the Houston Texans this season as they prepare to play them again Sunday.

“As magnified as it gets. There’s a lot on the line,” Jacksonville receiver Christian Kirk said. “We all remember what happened when we played them early in the year. … They’re going to be ready to play, too. Just got to get ready to match their energy and execute.”

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The Texans (6-4) won that game 37-17 for their first victory of the season, and a win Sunday would move them past the Jaguars (7-3) and into first place in the AFC South.

“They kicked our butt last time,” Jacksonville receiver Calvin Ridley said. “We owe them. Divisional game. We need to go in there and be the big brother that day.”

It’s been rare for the Jaguars to play the big brother role in this series for more than a decade, with the Texans winning 10 of the last 11 and 21 of the last 26 games.

The Texans certainly understand the magnitude of this game but are trying to treat it like any other one on the schedule.

“It’s the next game for us (but) they’ve put the work in to earn the right to be in this position,” coach DeMeco Ryans said. “I’m proud of our guys for putting themselves in this position and now we just have to go out and play clean football. Play our style of football on Sunday and be the best team within those 3 1/2 hours.”

Houston has won three games in a row overall for the first time since 2018 thanks to the stellar play of rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud. The second overall draft pick ranks second in the NFL with 2,962 yards passing and is the second rookie in NFL history to have three straight 300-yard passing games.

The Jaguars rank near the bottom of the league in pass defense by giving up 254.4 yards passing a game. Stroud threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Jaguars in Week 3 but is looking to clean up his play after throwing a season-high three interceptions last week.

He is excited to have helped the Texans return to playoff contention after three seasons in which they were among the league’s worst teams.

“It’s been really cool to see our progress all the way from the beginning of the season to now,” Stroud said. “This is all we’ve worked for… and now it’s time to go cash in.”


The Jaguars are unbeaten on the road this season, having won all five games outside of Jacksonville. They won at Indianapolis, New Orleans and Pittsburgh. They also won consecutive games (home and away) against Atlanta and Buffalo in London.

The last time Jacksonville won five road games in the same season was in 2007.


At just 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, rookie Tank Dell is by far Houston’s smallest receiver. But when asked what he liked best about Dell, offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik had a surprising answer.

“He thinks he’s (6-4, 215-pound) Nico Collins in the run game,” Slowik said. “My man will throw himself in there with reckless abandon to the point where we have to pull him back, and I love that because he attacks everything the same way.”

The third-round pick has become one of Houston’s top receivers this season and is coming off a rookie franchise-record 149 yards receiving last week. It was his third 100-yard receiving game and he has six TD catches this season, which is also most by a rookie in team history. His second-best game this season came in the first game with the Jaguars when he had 145 yards receiving and a score. He ranks second among rookies with 659 yards receiving.


The Jaguars would like to forget their first game against Houston this season. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence was under constant pressure. Ridley dropped three passes, including two in the end zone. Fellow receiver Jamal Agnew fumbled. Brandon McManus missed one field goal and had another blocked. Jacksonville’s defense allowed completions of 46 and 68 yards to Dell. And the Jaguars allowed a 255-pound fullback to score on an 85-yard kickoff return.

“It was a game where we just didn’t play well in all three phases,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson recalled. “I felt like they had more energy. They played faster in that game than we did. They came out and were the aggressor really from the jump. We never really responded throughout the course of the game. … Since that time, we’ve responded well and rebounded well; we got ourselves back on track.”


AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Jacksonville, Florida, contributed to this report.


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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