For the past two seasons, the Houston Texans sat atop the AFC South while the Jacksonville Jaguars were near or at the bottom.
Mired in a franchise-worst eight-game skid, the Texans hope to avoid sharing a spot in the division basement with the visiting Jaguars by recording a sixth consecutive victory in the series Sunday.
Houston (2-8) went 22-10 the last two seasons and set its sights on a third straight division title before a 30-9 loss at Baltimore in Week 3 began what's been one of the most frustrating stretches in team history.
While trying to overcome the loss of stars Brian Cushing and Arian Foster to season-ending injuries, the Texans emotionally dealt with the mini-stroke suffered by coach Gary Kubiak earlier this month.
However, Kubiak is entertaining questions about his job security after Sunday's 28-23 home loss to Oakland generated more concern. Kubiak benched quarterback Case Keenum, Matt Schaub and receiver Andre Johnson argued on the sideline after a late failed fourth-down pass attempt and running back Ben Tate called out some fans on a radio show for booing during the game.
"I could feel a lot better. I know that," said Kubiak, who hopes to coach from the sideline and not the press box Sunday. 'I'm just one of many people. Every player, every coach, it has been very difficult.
"It's tough on the organization, everybody, our fans. I feel a lot like everybody else, but I'm the guy that has got to get in there and figure out a way for us to work through it and that's what I'm trying to do."
Kubiak insists he's not lost his team.
"I don't see anybody fraying," he said. "I'm honest with them with where we're at and what we do every day. We're in there working our tails off, just trying to work our way out of this."
Keenum will be back under center for a fifth straight start. He threw for 170 yards with a touchdown and his first interception but was pulled after Houston punted on its first three drives of the second half.
"I think I was really thinking of him to be honest with you," Kubiak said. "I've been in this league a long time and dealt with a lot of quarterbacks. I'm trying to develop one right now. Right or wrong, I made that decision because of the situation I thought I was fixing to put a young player in."
Though the quarterback position has played a part, it's not the only reason Houston has dropped four straight by five or fewer points or been outscored 121-32 after the first half during the eight-game slide.
Tate has rushed for at least 81 yards in two of the last three games but has one of Houston's two rushing TDs on the season. Only Cleveland has fewer with one.
The defense ranks first in the NFL in total yards allowed (286.1 per game) and passing yards (167.5), but is 28th in scoring at 27.6 points per game. Some of that stems from allowing a league-high 96 points off turnovers.
Despite those issues, Houston would appear to have a solid chance to end its misery against Jacksonville (1-9).
The Texans have averaged 29.6 points during a five-game winning streak in the series. Johnson set career highs with 14 receptions and 273 receiving yards in the last meeting, a 43-37 overtime win in Houston last November. Tate ran 12 times for 74 yards and two TDs in a 27-7 win at Jacksonville in 2012.
After snapping a 13-game skid with a 29-27 win at Tennessee on Nov. 10, the Jaguars allowed Carson Palmer to throw for 419 yards and two TDs in a 27-14 home loss to Arizona last Sunday.
Though Jacksonville scored two touchdowns - one more than it had in its first four home games combined - it was held to 274 total yards, including a season-low 32 on the ground. The Jaguars are last in the league averaging 12.9 points, 278.0 total yards and 61.7 rushing yards per contest.
Maurice Jones-Drew has run for a TD in two straight games but gained 64 yards on 35 carries in those contests. However, he's averaged 4.8 yards per carry and rushed for eight TDs in his last nine versus Houston.
The Texans allowed Oakland backup and ex-Jaguar Rashad Jennings to gain 150 yards on 22 attempts last weekend.
Jacksonville hopes to get Cecil Shorts more involved after he was held to two receptions in each of the last two games. He voiced his displeasure after being targeted once through the first three quarters and finishing with 22 receiving yards versus Arizona. Shorts, however, insists he's not trying to create any controversy.
"I just want to help my team get better and improve," he said. "I can do that by getting the ball."
Shorts, who ranked fourth in the NFL with 87 targets through Week 9, caught three passes for 81 yards and a score at Houston in 2012.
The Jaguars hope to have star linebacker Paul Posluszny back after he missed last weekend with a concussion.
The Associated Press News Service
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