NFL: Jaguars plan to keep feet on gas against Texans

No matter what happens this week, the Jacksonville Jaguars will play for the AFC South title and a playoff spot at home in Week 18 against the reeling Tennessee Titans.

But coach Doug Pederson says Jacksonville isn’t going to take things easy on Sunday when it travels to division-rival Houston.

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“There is never a meaningless game — never ever, ever, ever,” he said.

So there will be no week off for quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne and tight end Evan Engram. Not even for outside linebacker Josh Allen, safety Andrew Wingard or rookie outside linebacker Travon Walker.

“You play to win every game,” Pederson said. “The only way I rest players is if they’re hurt and can’t go.”

It’s been all systems go for the Jaguars (7-8) lately as they’ve won four of five, including a 19-3 road win last Thursday over the New York Jets. That outcome, combined with Houston’s 19-14 upset of Tennessee on Saturday in Nashville, boosted Jacksonville into a tie with the Titans for first place — with the Jaguars currently owning the tiebreaker.

Lawrence threw for 229 yards and rushed for the game’s only touchdown, while Riley Patterson booted four field goals. A defense which has been inconsistent at times completely stifled New York, allowing just 10 first downs and 227 total yards.

Pederson’s players seem eager to play a game with comparatively little on the line, aside from getting the team to .500.

“It’s another opportunity to show who we are, to put our best foot forward …” Lawrence said, “… to play another complete game, to keep the momentum that we have. If you go out there and lay an egg, no one’s feeling good about that, especially heading into the last week.”

Meanwhile, the Texans (2-12-1) would love to go into the offseason with momentum after breaking a nine-game losing streak last week. Houston has played better than its record indicates lately, nearly upsetting Dallas and Kansas City in its previous two games before finally finishing the job against Tennessee.

Houston trailed 14-13 before Davis Mills led a late touchdown drive, finding Brandin Cooks for a 6-yard scoring pass with 2:52 remaining to give them their first win since a 13-6 decision on Oct. 9 at Jacksonville.

Mills and Jeff Driskel have formed a two-quarterback system the last three weeks that has given the Texans their best production of the year. While they are still ranked 30th in the NFL at just 16.9 points per game, they have averaged 22 points in the last three games against three solid defenses.

Some feel Houston should tank its last two games and up its odds of earning the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft, but coach Lovie Smith isn’t interested in that logic.

“If you’re competing, you compete to win, right?” he asked. “Our last games are in our division. We want to eventually take over the division. For us to have an opportunity to have a winning record in our division is pretty important to our guys.”

The Texans have won nine straight over the Jaguars, dating back to 2018.

–Field Level Media

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