C.J. Stroud, Texans put winning streak on line against Jaguars

Field Level Media

November 25, 2023 at 2:23 am.

It’s starting to look like the Houston Texans are ahead of schedule with their rebuild.

Houston is riding a three-game winning streak and will have a chance to take over first place in the AFC South on Sunday when it faces the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars.

After going 11-38 over the previous three seasons, the Texans (6-4) have found a formula for success behind rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and defensive-minded first-year coach DeMeco Ryans, a former Houston linebacker.

With a victory Sunday, the Texans would share the same record as Jacksonville (7-3) while claiming the top spot in the division by nature of a head-to-head tiebreaker. Houston would improve to 2-0 against the Jaguars this season after beating them back on Sept. 24.

However, taking down the Jaguars doesn’t guarantee an AFC South title by any means, so Ryans is more focused on getting his team ready to perform down the stretch.

“I never thought about this point of the season, because I think if you just take care of it one day at a time, then everything else will take care of itself,” Ryans said. “Our focus is continuing to improve, continue to show growth.”

Stroud, the second overall pick in this year’s draft, has thrown for 1,162 yards with nine total touchdowns (eight passing, one rushing) during the Texans’ winning streak. He also has four interceptions during that span, with three coming in last Sunday’s 21-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

The giveaways by Stroud weren’t enough to fluster Houston’s defense, which has vastly improved from a season ago.

During the 2022 campaign, the Texans ranked 30th in total defense (379.5 yards allowed per game) and 27th in scoring defense (24.7 points allowed per game). But under Ryans, Houston ranks 19th (337.9) and 14th (20.8) in those respective categories.

Still, Jacksonville is sure to present a challenge.

The Jaguars have prevailed in six of their past seven games, averaging 28.3 points across the six wins.

Trevor Lawrence took over in Jacksonville’s most recent victory, last weekend’s 34-14 rout of the Tennessee Titans. Lawrence completed 24 of 32 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for a pair of scores. He was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.

Receiver Zay Jones provided a boost for the offense, hauling in four catches for 20 yards while also giving Calvin Ridley (seven receptions, 103 yards, two TDs) and Christian Kirk (three receptions, 48 yards) more room to operate.

However, Jones — who had missed the Jaguars’ previous four games due to a knee injury and an arrest – has been ruled out for Sunday as his knee injury is still causing problems. He was limited in practice all week.

Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell (hamstring) was also ruled out after not practicing all week. Defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris (ankle) was limited all week and is questionable.

Texans wide receiver Noah Brown (knee), safety Jimmie Ward (hamstring) and linebacker Jake Hansen (hamstring/hand) were ruled out after not practicing all week.

Defensive end Will Anderson Jr. (knee) and tackle Laremy Tunsil (knee) practiced Thursday and Friday and will play Sunday. Defensive end Dylan Horton announced that he will be away from the team due to a “personal health matter.”