Tale of the Tape: Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
The "battle" for the top pick in next year's NFL draft takes center stage Thursday night when the Houston Texans visit the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Houston has the upper hand in the race for the No. 1 selection, losers of 10 consecutive games and owners of the worst record in the league. Jacksonville is marginally better at 3-9, but has won two straight games and three of its last four - including a 13-6 triumph over the Texans on Nov. 24.
Check out the matchup in our betting tale of the tape:
Despite being on a miserable losing skid, the Texans have actually been moderately productive on offense. The Texans come into Week 14 having generated the 10th-highest yardage total in the NFL (4,383), including an average of 248.5 passing yards. The rushing game has remained decent despite the absence of Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster, sitting 14th in the league in yardage (1,401) with six touchdowns - three of which were scored by Ben Tate last weekend.
The Jaguars have been a mess on offense, failing to sustain drives while dealing with an injury to starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert and a suspension to star-wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Jacksonville ranks 23rd in passing yardage, with just eight touchdowns through the air and 17 touchdowns - tied for the second-most in the league. The run game has been an abomination, racking up just 847 total yards on three yards per carry with seven touchdowns.
The Texans' defensive statistics against the pass are positively mind-boggling. While Houston has allowed just 2,255 yards through the air - the second-fewest next to Seattle - it has surrendered 20 touchdowns while snagging a league-low five interceptions and registering a paltry 28 sacks. Houston has struggled against the run so far this season, allowing the 13th-most yards (1,392) while surrendering 4.1 yards per carry and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
As with the offense, Jacksonville's defense has been tormented all season long. The Jaguars have surrendered 3,008 passing yards - 10th-most in the NFL - while giving up 23 touchdowns through the air against just seven interceptions. Jacksonville's 20 sacks are the fewest in the league through the first 12 games of the campaign, and they've permitted the fourth-most rushing yards (1,565) and second-most rushing touchdowns (16) to date.
Houston has had a strong kick return game so far in 2013, averaging the eighth-most yards per kickoff return (25.1) while ranking 23rd in punt-return average (8.1) but having recorded an 87-yard punt-return touchdown. The Texans have also allowed a punt-return score, while giving up the fourth-most average kickoff return yards (26). Kicker Randy Bullock has had one of the roughest seasons of anyone in his profession, missing on nine of his 29 field-goal tries.
Jacksonville is elite on kickoff returns - averaging 25.8 yards per attempt - but downright putrid when it comes to punt returns, managing a league-low 4.3 yards per attempt. Opposing teams have struggled against the Jaguars' special teams defense, averaging just 21.6 yards per kickoff return and 7.5 yards per punt return. Veteran kicker Josh Scobee hasn't been busy, but he has been solid when called upon, converting 17-of-19 field-goal opportunities.
"It's a challenging day. I'm used to seeing competition and who's fighting for the ball and all that, and we've had to tone it back with no pads. it's been a challenge, but it's the right thing to do." - Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley on electing to have his players practice without pads for the short week
"We struggled to get the ball to anybody that day, it wasn't just Andre. We just really struggled in the passing game to execute and they did a great job against us, especially up front. I can say it just wasn't a very good performance on our part, it wasn't just about Andre." - Texans head coach Gary Kubiak on receiver Andre Johnson's struggles in the previous game against the Jaguars