Playoff Atmosphere on Sunday

It is unusual for the ninth game of the season -- the beginning of the second half of the season -- to have major playoff implications.

But that is the situation the Jaguars and the Houston Texans find themselves in as they prepare for Sunday's critical game.

With both teams at 4-4, neither can afford to lose this game. The loser will fall to 4-5 and probably have to go 5-2 or even 6-1 to win the division.

Both teams are a game behind the Colts and Titans, who are both 5-3. And both teams have difficult schedules in their final seven games.

The Jaguars play all three division teams -- the Titans, Colts and Texans -- on the road and also play at the New York Giants.

The Texans' next five games are at the Jets, home against Tennessee, at Philadelphia, home against Baltimore and at Tennessee.

Also adding to the drama is the fact that both coaches -- Jack Del Rio of the Jaguars and Gary Kubiak of the Texans -- are on the hot seat.

Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said at the end of last year that he expects his team to be in the playoffs. If they don't make it, Del Rio will have just one playoff win on his resume in eight years and it is difficult to imagine him surviving another year.

Kubiak is in his fifth year and has yet to get the team to the playoffs.

Of course, the winner still faces a tough road to get a playoff spot, but at least the winner will still be alive and no more than a game out of first place.

So the stakes are high.

"Clearly a big game," Del Rio said. "A very important ballgame."

Del Rio added, "We're both sitting here at 4-4, a game behind the division leaders, and our entire division is right up there for grabs. The team that makes a move in the second half and puts together some wins and plays good football has a chance to take the division title."

For the Jaguars or the Titans to make a move, they have to start with a victory in this game.

SERIES HISTORY: 17th regular-season meeting. Series tied, 8-8. In the last game last December, the Jaguars scored the final 17 points and intercepted a season-high three passes to post the victory. David Garrard had a 106.0 passer rating while throwing for 328 yards and two touchdowns.

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