Big Game on Sunday, Maybe for Next Year?

On paper and in the standings, Sunday's game between the Jaguars and Texans doesn't amount to a hill of beans, especially for the visiting Jaguars. Jacksonville has already wrapped up the fifth seed in the AFC playoffs, and win or lose, they will likely be making a trip to western Pennsylvania for the second time in less than a month. Here's what might be important...

A victory for Jacksonville would even their division record at 3-3, which would mark just their second .500 or better division record since the AFC South formed in 2002. A Houston win would end their season at 8-8, matching the best record in franchise history, and it would mark the fifth time in the Texans six year existence that they've registered at least one victory over the Jaguars.

Jaguars running back Fred Taylor described the Jaguars-Texans rivalry.

"Well, the Texans are a team it seems as if they almost built their team just to beat us, at least when they were beating us the past few years. They definitely come and they play as hard as they possibly can versus us, but maybe they play that way versus everyone, it's just unfortunate they were kicking our (butt), you know. And as far as the rival thing goes, I think we have the best division in football, period, and each and every week, each and every time, we get to knuckle up. Tennessee is a rival. Colts is a rival. Texans is a rival. It's just outstanding competition in our division ,and I consider each and every team in our division a rival or a rivalry game. It doesn't matter." Taylor stated.

With the Jaguars in the very enviable position of not needing a victory, it is more than likely that the team will rest some of it's stars. Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio seems to have thoroughly read page one of the NFL coaching handbook in which it clearly states that all coaches must be as secretive as possible about any game plans or even what personnel they may employ, even if the game is meaningless (when asked if he will let anyone know before Sunday)

"That will be something we take right up to the game. The bottom line is he (Gary Kubiak) is right about one thing, we only have so many guys. We have 53 guys and we take 45 into the game. We'll do the best job we can putting together a plan to go down there and compete on Sunday." explained Del Rio.

It is our best guess that the Jaguars would like to give plenty of rest to starting quarterback David Garrard, running back Fred Taylor, defensive tackle John Henderson, defensive ends Paul Spicer and Reggie Hayward, and cornerback Rashean Mathis. I'm sure that coach Del Rio wouldn't want to risk injury to any one of his starters, but like the coach said, "we have 53 guys and we take 45 into the game." There simply isn't enough reserves to rest everyone.

The Jaguars will have a fine opportunity to see how some of their marginal or younger players look for extended game action, to help them make personnel choices for the offseason. Look at it as a fifth preseason game, only better. What's better is that the Texans will likely be lining up their best players on both sides of the ball. That will make for an increased level of talent evaluation.

The Jaguars current group of players that will be scheduled for unrestricted free agency are tight end Richard Angulo, corners Terry Cousin and Aaron Glenn, linebackers Tony Gilbert and Shantee Orr, defensive tackle Grady Jackson, quarterback Quinn Gray, safety Sammy Knight, offensive linemen Tutan Reyes, Maurice Williams, and Stockar McDougle, defensive end Bobby McCray, running back LaBrandon Toefield, and wide receiver Ernest Wilford. With the exception of McDougle (IR), Wilford, Williams, Knight, and possibly Cousin (who already receive significant playing time) it is expected that the Jaguars will get some extended looks at players who haven't seen the field much this year so they can make better offseason personnel decisions.

Sunday's game against Houston should be a solid test for cornerback Scott Starks, who may see some significant playing time, and if he does, will likely have to line up against Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, who is one of the game's very best. Tackle Richard Collier, who has spent most of his two years in the league on the sideline, may get the opportunity to pass block against Houston's stud defensive end Mario Williams. Rookie guard Uche Nwaneri may see the field of play and could have to block the Texans Amobi Okoye. Wide receiver Matt   Jones, who has been playing better in recent weeks, will likely see a lot of action as he hopes to resurrect his career in Jacksonville. Safety Jamal Fudge will likely get an extended look against a very good Houston passing attack. Running back LaBrandon Toefield will be auditioning for 32 teams on Sunday, as he's spent all but three out of the team's last 32 games inactive. One of the biggest auditions will be for quarterback Quinn Gray, who will likely hit free agency in a couple of months. Gray started three games for the Jaguars earlier this season when quarterback David Garrard went down with an ankle injury and the results were neither impressive nor horrible. Gray has one final opportunity to earn himself a nice paycheck in the offseason.

Everyone has heard the phrase, "it's not if you win or lose, it's how you play the game." That phrase just may apply to a regular season football game for the first time in a while for the Jaguars, and many of their reserves.


Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of JagNation.com, and a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports.com, Sirius NFL Radio, MySpace Sports and Sportsillustated.com. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association, and is a columnist for the New Smyrna Observer. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.



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