JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Of all the things that went right for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017, turnovers were at the top of the list.
The Jaguars took care of the ball, especially in the postseason, and ranked second in the league with 33 takeaways. They finished the regular season at plus-10 in turnover margin, tied for fifth in the NFL.
They’re nowhere close to that these days.
The Jaguars (3-3) have been careless with the football through six games and have done considerably less to create fumbles and interceptions.
The result: Jacksonville sits next to last in turnover margin, a minus-9 ratio that was a key part of consecutive blowout road losses to Kansas City and Dallas.
Finding a way to end the trend Sunday against Houston (3-3) could be the difference between first place in the AFC South and a three-game losing streak.
“We’re definitely not helping ourselves out by any means,” quarterback Blake Bortles said. “We are getting unlucky. Not only are we not helping ourselves, but we are also getting some bad bounces, and that is part of it.
“We will start creating our own good fortune, and I think with that we will start getting some breaks and some bounces will go our way as well.”
The Jaguars could use some better fortune, especially since they are without their top two left tackles, their top two tight ends, two of their top three running backs and their leading receiver from a year ago. The rash of injuries has hampered the offense so much that it failed to score in the first half of the past two games.
And the usually stout defense has done little, if anything, to pick up the slack. The unit allowed a combined 802 yards, 63 points and 49 first downs against the Chiefs and Cowboys.
“We haven’t lost our confidence,” defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. “I think it’s a reality check. We understand who we are. We know who we are. I think a lot of us are leaning on the accolades.
“We want to be Pro Bowlers. We have to be All-Pros. We want to be this, but we have to understand that we just have to play like we did last year, just stay carefree, and the less you care about your accolades off the field, the more we’ll win as a team.”
The Texans have won three in a row in dramatic fashion. They won twice in overtime and beat Buffalo last week thanks to Johnathan Joseph’s interception return for a touchdown in the waning minutes.
Houston hasn’t won four in a row since 2015.
Beating Jacksonville could come down to how well Houston’s offensive line plays. The Texans allowed 14 sacks in two lopsided losses to the Jaguars last season and have allowed 25 in six games this season, the second-most in the league.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson played last week with a partially collapsed lung and a broken rib.
“I’m fine now. I’m healthy,” he said. “I’m cleared to practice, cleared to do everything. I’m good.”
Bortles should be wary, too. He has been sacked eight times in the past two games while playing behind an injury-riddled line. And now the Jaguars have to deal with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.
Equally concerning are the team’s 14 turnovers and five takeaways.
“It has not been what we wanted or what we expected or planned for,” Bortles said. “Everybody knows that. You learn from it, you put it in the past and you move on. You have to find a way to get back on track and get back to playing like we did against the Jets or against New England or late last year. That is all we are focusing on: getting back to playing the kind of football and the execution level that we know we can do.”
Here are some other things to know about the Texans and Jaguars:
BACK TO BASICS
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone focused on fundamentals in practice all week, with several players saying they essentially returned to training camp mode in Week 7. Some might consider it a desperation move, but Marrone defended his decision to go back to square one.
“Anytime you see football being played as poorly as we have been playing, then it comes down to fundamentals,” he said. “That is my philosophy.”
Texans safety Andre Hal, who is in remission after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, resumed practicing this week. He won’t play against the Jaguars, but gave the team an emotional lift this week. Hal was diagnosed with the disease in May and immediately began treatment.
“I’m in the best shape of my life just from working out all the time, eating right, getting closer to God, getting closer to myself, finding out who I am, stuff like that,” Hal said. “I’m a better person.”
Watson and Bortles have three games each with at least 375 yards passing this season.