December 24, 2014

A revolving-door situation at quarterback hasn't kept the Houston Texans from reaching the cusp of an AFC South title.

They'll turn back to a healthy Brian Hoyer in hopes of securing a playoff berth in Sunday's regular-season finale against a Jacksonville Jaguars team that will have some needed stability heading into 2016.

Houston (8-7) has withstood injuries and inconsistency at the game's most important position to put itself in range for its first division crown since going back-to-back in 2011 and '12. The Texans are almost assured of completing the task regardless of Sunday's outcome, with Indianapolis needing to defeat Tennessee and receive help from several other teams to advance on a strength of victory tiebreaker if Houston loses.

The Texans have overcome a 1-4 start with resiliency and defensive dominance, both of which were again factors in their latest triumph. Brandon Weeden threw two touchdowns and ran for another in Hoyer's place, while Houston held Tennessee to 257 total yards and forced four turnovers in last week's 34-6 rout.

Weeden, claimed off waivers from Dallas last month, became the fourth Houston quarterback to win a game this season. He finished a pivotal 16-10 victory at Indianapolis the previous week when T.J. Yates tore his ACL in the first half.

The Texans limited the Colts to 190 yards that day and are yielding an NFL-low 269.0 and 13.5 points per game over the team's 6-2 stretch.

"I'm very proud of this team," coach Bill O'Brien said. "I really believe it's all about the players. The players have done a good job turning this thing around and putting us in position to be in this position, obviously."

Hoyer had done his part before missing the last two weeks with a concussion. The well-traveled veteran has a career-high 18 touchdown passes against six interceptions and hasn't turned it over more than once over his last seven starts.

O'Brien announced Wednesday that Hoyer would start after successfully passing the NFL's concussion protocol.

''I thought he practiced really well last week ... he ran the (scout) team, did some things on the side and (Wednesday) I thought he looked really sharp,'' O'Brien said. ''Again, it all depends on how it looks on Sunday obviously, but I think he's looked good, he's got good command of our offense and what we're doing, and the ball seems like it's coming out of his hand real well.''

Jacksonville (5-10) appears to have found a solution to its longstanding quarterback problems with Blake Bortles' breakout sophomore campaign. The 23-year-old ranks second in the league with a franchise-record 35 touchdown passes and sits 179 yards shy of breaking Mark Brunell's team season mark of 4,367 yards set in 1996.

The Jaguars' five wins are their most since 2011 and earned Gus Bradley a fourth season, with owner Shad Khan announcing Tuesday that the head coach will be retained for 2016.

"It's evident to see how far we've come in many aspects of our game, and Gus deserves a lot of credit for that progress," Khan said in a statement. "It's also evident the considerable work that remains to be done to be where we expect to be at this time next season, which is well above where we stand today. And Gus understands that."

Those expectations have been raised by Bortles' progression and the emergence of second-year receivers Allen Robinson (75 catches, 1,292 yards) and Allen Hurns (61 catches, 1,013 yards). Robinson's 14 TD catches are tied for the league lead and he's had at least one in five straight games, while Hurns has 10 after recording two along with 107 yards on eight receptions in last week's 38-27 loss at New Orleans.

The trio will be challenged by a Houston defense that's held opposing quarterbacks to a 73.5 passer rating over the last eight games and intercepted Bortles three times in a 31-20 win at Jacksonville on Oct. 18. Jaguars leading rusher T.J. Yeldon missed that one with a groin injury, and the rookie will sit out the finale - his third consecutive game missed - with a sprained ligament in his left knee.

The Texans, however, won't have linebacker Jadeveon Clowney due to a foot injury. He's expected back the following week should Houston make the playoffs.

Hoyer threw for 293 yards and three touchdowns, including two to DeAndre Hopkins in the fourth quarter that rallied the Texans from a 14-10 deficit. Hopkins, third in the NFL with 1,432 receiving yards, finished with 148 on 10 catches in Houston's third straight win in the series.

The Texans have won four straight division games after losing to Indianapolis in Week 5, while Jacksonville has lost six straight on the road to AFC South foes since a 13-6 decision at Houston on Nov. 24, 2013.

The Jaguars are 1-6 on the road and have dropped 15 of 16 as the visitor.

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