KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
SERIES: 12th game. Texans lead, 6-5, but lost the first game this year by a 37-17 margin in Jacksonville when Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and David Garrard passed for 221 yards and two touchdowns.
PREDICTION: Jaguars 27-19
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jaguars want to shorten the game, get out of town and start preparing for their wild-card game, so they're likely to feature the ground game even more than usual. The Texans allow 4.4 yards per carry and gave up 244 yards in the first meeting, so Jacksonville should be able to strip down their playbook and still have a chance to reach 12 wins. ... With QB Sage Rosenfels coming of a three-INT game and knowing the Jaguars will milk the clock, the Texans need RBs Darius Walker and Ron Dayne to provide consistent yards on the ground. That should set up shots to WR Andre Johnson against the Jaguars' sometimes vulnerable secondary.
KEY INJURIES: Jaguars: LB Mike Peterson (broken hand) is out; DE Paul Spicer (ankle) will probably be held out. Texans: QB Matt Schaub (shoulder) might serve as the top backup; MLB DeMeco Ryans (knee) and Dayne (ankle) are limited, but should play.
FAST FACTS: Jaguars QB David Garrard is on pace for the lowest interception percentage for a season in NFL history (minimum 300 pass attempts) with three INTs in 325 attempts (0.9 percent). ... The Texans seek a franchise-best eighth win.
--DE Paul Spicer did not practice for the second consecutive day with an ankle injury and will be held out of the Houston game, but he said he could play if the playoffs were on the line and will play next week in their first playoff game.
--CB Scott Starks was limited in practice for the second consecutive day with an ankle injury.
--OT Tony Pashos was added to the injury report with a thigh injury and was limited in practice.
--DE Reggie Hayward, who's missed three games and all but four plays of a fourth with an groin injury, practice full time for the second consecutive day and isn't on the injury report.
--QB David Garrard said he'll start in Houston, but doesn't know how long he'll play. In a similar situation against Tennessee in the 2005 season finale when he was starting for injured Byron Leftwich, he played a half and led the team to a 27-0 lead at halftime before giving way to Quinn Gray.
--DE Anthony Weaver (shoulder) will not play Sunday.
--DE Earl Cochran will start in place of Weaver on Sunday.
--RB Ron Dayne (ankle) is still expected to play Sunday, but Darius Walker may start.
--RT Eric Winston (back) participated in portions of practice and may be able to play Sunday. If not, Rashad Butler will start in his place.
--LB Danny Clark (groin) is practicing a little, but it still looks like Charlie Anderson will start.
Defensive end Reggie Hayward knows pro football is all about the money.
"With large sums of money comes large responsibility," he said.
That is why Hayward wants to see some action in Houston even though several veterans will be rested because the game is meaningless to them.
Hayward, who has missed the last three games with a groin injury, is not on the injury report and is back practicing full time.
And he's eager to play Sunday in Houston.
"There's a time to rest and a time to play football. Right now, I feel like it's a good time to play football. I need to get out there and do some work and get in a good groove like the rest of my teammates," he said.
Hayward has a lot at stake because a strong showing in the playoffs could help convince the Jaguars that he deserves to be one of the better paid players on their defense.
Hayward signed a five-year, $25 million free agent deal in 2005 and had a good first season with the Jaguars with 8.5 sacks, giving him 27.5 sacks over three years.
But he tore his Achilles tendon in the first game last year and missed the rest of the season. This year, he got off to a slow start while recovering from the Achilles injury and then he suffered the groin injury. The result is that he's only started nine games and has just 3.5 sacks.
That's not a lot of production for a player who is making $2.5 million in base salary this year plus a $2 million roster bonus and is due $3.5 million in base salary next year.
In the playoffs he'll get a chance to show he can still be the player he was before he suffered the injuries.
"Hopefully, I'll put up some big numbers in the playoffs so when it comes to my job security, it won't be an issue. If you don't step up, you put your chances of being here, being part of something great in the hands of the front office. I don't want that to become an issue. I do enjoy this team. I do enjoy the atmosphere around here. I'd hate to have to go somewhere else," he said.
Although Matt Schaub took most of his reps with the scout team Wednesday and Thursday, he showed enough to revive hopes that he will play against Jacksonville in the Texans' final game Sunday.
"As I've said all along, I'm hoping that he is able to play," coach Gary Kubiak said. "At the same time, he's only going to play if I think he's 100 percent."
No matter how things play out against the Jaguars, though, Schaub later confirmed for the first time that he will have surgery to repair his dislocated left shoulder after the season.
"We don't have anything set in stone. I want to get through the season first," he said. "But it's something that's going to happen. I've heard multiple doctors tell me it's the best option and the only way to go. They know more about it than I do."
Schaub, acquired last offseason in a trade with Atlanta to replace David Carr, admits he has never had an operation of any kind, but he didn't sound apprehensive about going under the knife.
"I'm only losing sleep over not being able to play," he said.
Schaub last played against Tennessee on Dec. 2, going out in the first quarter when he fell awkwardly on a sack.