Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

December 27, 2018 at 1:43 am.

Big-game QB Watson tries to win division for Texans

The AFC South title is sitting there for the taking for the Houston Texans which would lead to a home playoff game if they can take down the Jacksonville Jaguars in their final regular-season game. The Texans clinched a playoff berth last Sunday despite their loss but with a full slate of games left in Week 17, the Texans’ final spot in the AFC might not be decided until Sunday night.

“We have a great opportunity,” head coach Bill O’Brien said of the game coming up. “Our fans are going to be fantastic on Sunday. We’ve got to go do it. Like always, you’re going to write whatever you’re going to write and I know that you’re going to write that they’re a 5-10 team and all of that, but throw the film on.”

With the talented defense of the Jaguars led by Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell, Myles Jack and Telvin Smith the unit ranks fifth in the NFL only giving up 19.7 points a game. The ever-changing Texans offense has some work to do to devise a game plan that can put points on the scoreboard.

With so much riding on the Texans’ final position heading into the playoffs, pressure is mounting on the team to handle their business against the Jaguars. Expectations are rising but quarterback Deshaun Watson is ready to just play the game.

“There’s not really pressure for me or anything because every game is a must-win,” Watson explained. “Every game I want to win. So, for me, I’m not used to losing, like I said before, and every game, I put that mindset in my head that we must go in and win. We understand the stakes of this game is the opportunity to clinch, but at the end of the day, you can’t focus on that. You just have to focus on your job and going out there and performing and let the game come to you. You can’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself.”

With the Texans sitting at 10-5, they have done the improbable from bouncing back starting at 0-3. The Texans notched a key win in Week 7, 20-7 over the Jaguars but O’Brien is throwing out that score because he feels both teams are different. The Texans have lost Will Fuller V and Demaryius Thomas at wide receiver for the season while the Jaguars are playing musical quarterbacks with Cody Kessler and Blake Bortles.

“I think teams evolve over the year,” O’Brien said of the upcoming matchup. “They have a different offensive coordinator. They’re doing some things offensively that are a little bit different. Personnel-wise, Barry Church doesn’t play for them anymore. They’re just doing some different things. For us, I think everybody evolves. We’re a little bit different. I think we’re more identified as to what we are, and we have to get back to that. We have to do a better job of running the football and we’ve got to do a better job of stopping the run – obviously, I think we do a pretty good job of that – but, pressuring the quarterback, playing coverage and playing complementary football. I think our special teams has been much improved than it was the previous years. That has to continue, but I think we’re both very different teams than we were back then.”

Watson will be the deciding factor for the Texans, like he has been all season. The Texans have been within a possession in all five of their losses this season losing by an average of 4.0 points a game. Watson has had this knack as a quarterback since his sophomore year in high school of keeping games close that has followed him to Clemson and now to the Texans. Watson is ready for the big stage on Sunday.

“I guess situations throughout the game,” Watson explained. “It’s all normal to me. It’s all the same to me. I guess the biggest thing is the media, press and outside stuff, but at the end of the day, it’s still football regardless of you’re playing against somebody that isn’t going to the playoffs and somebody that is. It’s still football. You’ve still got to go out there and do the same thing regardless of what’s on the mind or not.”

SERIES HISTORY: 34th regular-season meeting. Texans lead series, 20-13. Their last matchup was this season at TIAA Bank Field that saw the Texans win 20-7 while QB Deshaun Watson was playing with broken ribs and a punctured lung. Watson had to take a bus from Houston to Jacksonville while his teammates took the team charter. Even banged up, Watson went 12 of 24 for 139 yards and a touchdown.