KEYS TO THE GAME: Houston was expected to have an offense as diverse as it was explosive just as soon as it discovered a consistent running game. RB Arian Foster has carried the Texans' offense, while the once pass-happy group has been up and down. He leads the NFL with 147.4 yards from scrimmage per game and has emerged as a top receiving option for QB Matt Schaub. Schaub has struggled of late, with three TD passes in his last four games, although Jacksonville might be the fix he needs. The Jaguars have allowed 17 TD passes and a 67.7 completion percentage this season. They are shooting for a fourth straight win over Houston and stifled the Cowboys before the bye week. However, the Jaguars have been poor in the first game after a bye week under coach Jack Del Rio and need a fast start. That will require a good first quarter from David Garrard, who has been plagued by inconsistency this season.
FAST FACTS: Both teams are 5-3 at home in the series. The Jaguars have won three of the last four meetings. ... The Texans are 7-4 on the road the last two seasons, including 2-1 this season. Houston hasn't won in Jacksonville since 2006, coach Gary Kubiak's first with the team.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Offensive coordinators developing game plans for the Texans don't have a difficult decision to make.
The Texans are 32nd in defense, including 32nd against the pass and 32nd in the red zone.
The only thing the defense has done well is to stop the run. They rank 11th against the run. They've allowed one 100-yard runner, Kansas City's Thomas Jones (100 yards).
Maurice Jones-Drew hit the century mark against the Texans in the third game last season. He has run for only one touchdown. The Jaguars have three touchdowns on the ground.
Over the last 21 games, Jones and Tennessee's Chris Johnson are the only backs to reach triple digits against the Texans.
Offensive coordinators know that to beat the Texans, they have to throw the ball. The Texans allow 399.5 yards a game. Over the last 40 years, that makes them one of the five worst defenses in the NFL after eight games.
Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard has had two weeks to prepare for Sunday's game. Garrard threw four touchdown passes and ran for another in his last game, a 35-17 victory at Dallas.
Philip Rivers threw four touchdown passes against the Texans in their last game, a 29-23 defeat.
Garrard, who is 5-2 against the Texans, has completed 67.9 percent, and his rating is 98.8 this season. He doesn't have to worry about getting sacked because the Texans can't get to the quarterback with any consistency. They have three sacks in their last four games.
In this game, expect the Jaguars to try to establish Jones-Drew early but elect to attack the Texans with Garrard, just like every other quarterback who has faced them.
The Jaguars may have suffered a severe setback Thursday when defensive end Aaron Kampman went down with a knee injury.
It was serious enough that Kampman was scheduled for an MRI Thursday night.
On top of that, defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, the team's first-round draft pick, apparently suffered a knee injury at practice Wednesday.
He missed practice Thursday with what was described as a knee injury on the injury report, but he had a brace on his lower left leg during the media viewing time.
Kampman's injury came after the media access to practice was over.
Kampman said last week, "November is typically a time when you're going to see the most injuries. Statistically, you're going to have new starters in there. It's a battle of attrition. Quite frankly, I'm very happy we haven't had super significant injuries for the most part. We lost Eben (Britton), but I don't think we've lost any other starter. That's a big part of it. If we can keep ourselves healthy, I think that will help," he said.
The timing of Kampman's injury couldn't be worse for the Jaguars.
They play home games against Houston and Cleveland the next two weeks and both are virtually must wins if they are to stay in the playoff chase because they play four of their last six on the road, including games at all three division rivals (Texans, Colts and Titans) and at the New York Giants.
The Jaguars signed Kampman to a free agent contract last March 7 that included $11 million in guaranteed money, gambling that he would make a complete recovery from the torn ACL he suffered while playing for the Green Bay Packers last Nov. 22.
They appeared to win the gamble as Kampman has played the majority of the snaps and has been a team leader on and off the field while leading the team with four sacks.
Gene Smith, the team's general manager, said Thursday before Kampman suffered the injury, "Aaron Kampman is the most complete player (in the defensive line). He's been a tremendous mentor to a lot of the young players in that position group."
The injury leaves them thin at defensive end because Jeremy Mincey, who had beaten out Derrick Harvey for the left tackle job, is playing with his right hand heavily wrapped because he has a broken bone in the back of his hand.
Mincey says he can play Sunday, but he's been limited in practice the last two days.
Austen Lane, a rookie, started in Harvey's spot and the other two ends are both rookies, Larry Hart and Aaron Morgan.
The alternative if Alualu can't go or is limited in the Houston game is probably Leger Douzable, who had 27 snaps in Dallas.
--CB Jason Allen was claimed off waivers from Miami. Allen could factor into the defense as soon as Sunday's game at Jacksonville. The Texans have been abysmal against the pass all season.
--SS Dominique Barber underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and was placed on injured reserve. Coach Gary Kubiak called Barber the Texans' best special teams player this season. He also was getting playing time off the bench. Kubiak hasn't named a replacement. A candidate is Torri Williams, a rookie safety on the practice squad.
--SS Bernard Pollard played exceptionally well last season when he was signed after Kansas City waived him and placed in the lineup for the last 13 games. Pollard tied for the team lead with four interceptions. He allowed three touchdown passes. This season, Pollard has no interceptions, and he's allowed seven touchdowns in eight games, according to STATS, Inc. Pollard is tied with Buffalo safety Donte Whitner for most touchdown passes allowed.
--CB Kareem Jackson is getting ridiculed locally and nationally because he's a rookie struggling in coverage. The coaches say he played well two weeks ago in a loss at Indianapolis. He was terrible in Sunday's loss to San Diego, allowing two touchdown passes. For the season, he's given up four touchdown passes, according to STATS, Inc. He's also allowed 584 yards, second-most among corners to DeAngelo Hall's 615.
--TE Owen Daniels didn't practice again because of a hamstring injury. He could play against Jacksonville, but it's looking more and more as if he's going to miss his second consecutive game. That means Joel Dreessen (13 catches, 190 yards, two touchdowns) would be elevated into the lineup. James Casey (four catches, 48 yards) would become the third tight end. The coaches would like to get the ball to Casey more because of his hands, speed and athleticism.
--WR Jacoby Jones was given the kickoff duties because RB Steve Slaton had been a disappointment. Slaton averaged 19.5 yards a return. Jones has five fewer returns but averages 24.7 yards. He has great size (6-2, 210), speed and breakaway ability, but he hasn't returned one for a touchdown. His punt returns have suffered. He averaged 10 yards last season but only 8.9 this season. The coaches say they believe it's only a matter of time before he takes one back for a touchdown.
--DE Aaron Kampman suffered a knee injury Thursday at practice and it was serious enough that he was scheduled for an MRI Thursday night. If he is sidelined, it will be a major blow to the Jaguars because he is their best defensive lineman.
--DT Tyson Alualu, their first round pick, suffered an injury in practice Wednesday and sat out Thursday's practice. It was listed as a knee injury on the injury report, but he had a brace on his lower left leg.
--FB Greg Jones was added to the injury list as limited with an ankle injury Thursday.
--DE Jeremy Mincey, who has a broken bone in the back of his right hand, was limited Thursday for the second consecutive day.
--LB Daryl Smith, who was limited Wednesday with a back injury, participated in the entire practice Thursday.
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