Moeller: Jaguars Can Take a Giant Step Forward Sunday

By Jeff Moeller

Note to Jaguars: Don’t mess it up.

Also, this is still the time to be thankful and believe in fate. The latter is a factor I have harped on over the past two weeks. Fate is on their side.

You may have to take a second look, but the first-place Jaguars have placed themselves in a position to win the AFC South or gain a Wildcard spot. At this point, they control their one destiny.

The key words are “at this point.” That means, they have to go into Houston Sunday afternoon and beat the 2-12-1 Texans. Remember, this is the same Texan team that came into Jacksonville and beat a sluggish Jaguars’ team, 13-6, behind the running of Dameon Pierce, who bulldozed his way for 99 yards and scored a late fourth-quarter touchdown that won it.

Trevor Lawrence had a rough day with two bad interceptions on a 25-for-47, 286-yard performance, all was listless late Sunday afternoon as the Jags sat at 2-5. It had all the making of another 3-14 or 4-13 season.

From there, the Jags took a giant leap, and the Texans stayed status quo with an asterisk* (they were right on the cusp of victories against a number of teams).

So, there should be some concern when the 7-8 Jaguars saunter into NRG Stadium for a 1 o’clock kickoff Sunday. The Texans finally got over the top last week with a 19-14 hard-fought victory over the Titans in Tennessee last Sunday that snapped a nine-game losing streak.

Yes, these are the former AFC South leaders that fortunately fell to the Dallas Cowboys last Thursday night that dropped their record to 7-9.

So, the stage is set. Beat Houston –which lost Pierce for the season – and head home for the chance to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017 with a victory over Tennessee.

This Titans squad is banged up and reeling on a six-game losing streak. Derrick Henry, the league’s second-leading rusher with a hip injury last week, did play, but seven other starters were sidelined in the 27-13 loss to Dallas.

Henry ran for 121 yards with a touchdown in the Titans’ 36-22 home loss to the Jaguars Dec. 11.

Even though fate apparently looms in the Jags’ favor next week, they have to take care of business this week.

Further memo: Don’t Mess it Up.

Houston likely will love to play the role of a spoiler here. For whatever reason, and nothing to have to do with this current team, Houston has won the last nine meetings between the two.
When was the last Jaguars’ victory over the Texans? Ironically it was in 2017 when they swept the series, the Jags’ winning 29-7 in Houston.

Yes, this is fate. The Jags have a very winnable game in front of them Sunday, and Dallas did them a huge favor by beating a Tennessee team that currently is a shadow of itself from a 12-win team last year and two years removed from being in the AFC Championship game.

Suddenly and shockingly, these once 3-7 Jaguars are on the step toward the next level. They have won four of their last five and three straight. Lawrence has risen to the ranks as one of the best in the league. Travis Etienne broke the 1,000-yard season mark last week, and the re-energized secondary has pushed the defense into another category.

The Jaguars need to take care of business and rout the Texans. They can then return to TIAA Field next Sunday and claim a divisional crown and host a playoff game.

If they lose and beat Tennessee next week at home, the Jags can still claim a wildcard spot, but there are too many situations that would have to end in their favor. They don’t want to go that route.

Final thought: Don’t mess it up.

It is there for the taking, a situation one couldn’t have imagined after the first Jaguars’-Texans’ game.

(Columnist Jeff Moeller covers the NFL and football for SportsDay and the Florida Sports Wire.)

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