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HOUSTON -- J.J. Watt faced a creature bigger than he on Thursday after practice.

A horse named J.J. Watt. He wanted to ride it, and so he did.

The horse was one of the horses used by the Houston Police Department's Mounted Patrol. It, and two other horses, are sponsored by Houston Texans owner Bob McNair's foundation. McNair has owned race horses, too. The other two horses are named Cushing 56, after inside linebacker Brian Cushing, and Texan Star. The horse named J.J. Watt used to be named Sergeant Swatt #99, but he's made things simpler now.

Word is, horse J.J. Watt and horse Cushing love being part of the action. That figures, doesn't it?
HOUSTON -- Houston Texans running back Arian Foster missed Thursday's practice, after practicing Wednesday.

Foster
Foster
Foster suffered a groin injury on Nov. 2 against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Texans didn't play the following week, and when they returned to prepare for the Cleveland Browns, Foster did not practice all last week. He stayed in Houston rather than making the trip to Cleveland, and was ruled out for Sunday's game on Saturday.

So far this season, Foster has missed two games because of injury. He suffered a hamstring injury in Week 2 against the Oakland Raiders and missed the following game. Though he returned the next week, he wasn't himself. Foster only had eight carries for a total of six yards.

That result could factor into Foster's thinking in his timetable for return. When he is as close as possible to fully healthy, he is a dynamic player. He has rushed for 822 yards this season despite playing in eight games and only having six yards in one of those games. He might consider it worth it to be cautious.

During his Thursday news conference, Texans coach Bill O'Brien repeated that Foster was day-to-day. He added that the Texans will give Foster until game time to make a decision on his playing status. The Texans play the Cincinnati Bengals at home on Sunday.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The success of the Jacksonville Jaguars over the next several seasons largely depends on the development of rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.

If Bortles cleans up his fundamentals, limits his mistakes, and adjusts to the speed of the game, the Jaguars could be a playoff team rather quickly. If not, they could continue to be one of the league’s worst teams and spending a lot more time at the bottom of the AFC South.

In other words, it’s all about that Blake.

Bortles
Which is why one Jacksonville radio station decided to parody Meghan Trainor’s hit "All About That Bass" by recording a song entitled "It’s All About That Blake." John Scott, the music director and a member of the morning "Jax Big Show" on WQIK (99.1 FM), wrote it in about an hour and it debuted shortly after Bortles made his first appearance on the field in Week 3.

The idea struck when he and his son Paul-Reid were running errands during the Jaguars’ home game against Indianapolis on Sept. 21. Paul-Reid stayed in the car during one stop and when Scott returned, his son told him that Chad Henne had been benched and Bortles had begun the second half.

"For whatever reason, maybe I had heard that song, I remember saying, 'Oh, it’s all about that Blake, about that Blake,'" Scott said. "... It pretty much wrote itself. Once you get the title you go, 'Oh yeah, we’ve got to go with this one.'"

Scott produced the song, and he voices most of the backing tracks. Paul-Reid, who works at Jacksonville sports talk station SportsRadio 930 AM, sings background vocals. Hillary Borden, a promotional assistant at WQIK, sings the lead.

Bortles hadn’t heard it until Wednesday. He seemed a bit sheepish, as well as amused, by it.

"It’s weird," he said. "I don’t know a lot of people who like songs about themselves.

"It’s kind of cool that somebody took the time to do it."

Scott said the Jax Big Show tries to come up with a parody song each month, and the Bortles parody has generated the most positive feedback in a long time.

"For parody songs you want to hit what’s hot or universal," Scott said. "That’s why Weird Al [Yankovic] made so much money singing about food. It’s universal. The Jaguars are pretty much universal [in Jacksonville].

"It was the best response we’ve had in years because everybody was excited about [Bortles]. ... It hit at the right time, and it’s all about timing when it comes to things like this."
INDIANAPOLIS – One by one, running backs that could have possibly helped the Indianapolis Colts ended up elsewhere.

The Minnesota Vikings claimed Ben Tate, who was released by Cleveland earlier this week, on Wednesday. Then LeGarrette Blount, who was released Pittsburgh on Wednesday, signed with his former team, the New England Patriots, on Thursday.

So barring the Colts making a run at another free agent, Trent Richardson and Daniel “Boom” Herron will be the team’s two primary running backs the rest of the season. The Colts could also promote Zurlon Tipton off of the practice squad.

The Colts and Arizona both put a waiver claim, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates. The Vikings were awarded Tate because they have a worse record than the Colts and Cardinals.

There were questions about Blount’s attitude, especially after he left the field before Pittsburgh’s victory over Tennessee earlier this week because he was upset over the lack of carries he was getting.

Getting carries with the Colts wouldn’t have been a problem for Blount because Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, who is out for the rest of the season with a fractured fibula, basically split playing time. The issue with Blount, though, is that he’s not a third-down back.

Blount signing with the Patriots could end up hurting the Colts later if the two teams meet in the playoffs. So instead of worrying about one running back, the Colts may have to deal with Blount and Jonas Gray. Blount rushed for 166 yards against them in the playoffs last January and Gray gained 201 yards on the ground against them last weekend.
Zach Mettenberger AP Photo/Wade PayneTitans tight end Delanie Walker says quarterback Zach Mettenberger is a "leader in the making."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Coaches, players, media and fans all love a quarterback who will stand up and take more than his share of the blame, just so long as "my bad" doesn’t become the inscription on his football card.

It was huge in the career of the best quarterback the Titans have had in Tennessee: Steve McNair.

McNair quickly raised his hand regarding his mistakes. He also worked to publicly take the blame when routes were botched or balls were dropped or blocks were missed; things that were in no way his fault.

Three starts into his career, we have no idea if Zach Mettenberger can be an NFL starter for a long period. We also have very little on which to base his willingness to accept fault as a franchise frontman.

But the very early indications are good.

Mettenberger’s third-and-6 pass in the middle to a crossing Kendall Wright from the Titans' 36-yard line may not have produced a first down Monday night in the loss to Pittsburgh. But it fell incomplete when Wright couldn’t pull in a throw that was behind him but catchable.

Later in the fourth, Mettenberger threw a screen to the left too low for Wright. Wright wouldn’t have gained much if he pulled it in, but he let it fall to the ground despite getting both hands on it.

After the game, the quarterback fielded a question about the drops.

“It was bad throws on me,” he said. “That’s not his fault at all. The one screen was low. ... The drag was behind him. I’ve got to do a better job getting him more catchable balls. Obviously, we’ve seen what he can do with a ball in his hand. I’ve got to make it easier on him.”

That kind of talk scores big in a lot of places, the most significant one being in the locker room. It was notably different than Robert Griffin III’s comments after Washington’s bad loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday, when he spoke about how the guys around a quarterback need to play well for a quarterback to play well. (Of course the context is different for Mettenberger, a sixth-round rookie, and RG III, the second overall pick who’s in his third year.)

As for accepting fault:

“That’s part of my job, it’s something Coach Cam [Cameron at LSU] taught me: ‘You have big shoulders, use them,’” Mettenberger said. “... Shouldering the blame, that’s my job, I can take it. I’ve been in a lot of situations in my life where it wasn’t looking good for me. I’d rather take the blame than maybe some guy who mentally can’t handle it and it can put him in the jar.

“So I guess I’m a guy who kind of shoulders the blame.”

Titans tight end Delanie Walker has an appreciation for the approach.

“Quarterbacks, they’ve got to be the quarterback and they’ve got to be the blame guy," Walker said. "It’s good that he understands that as young as he is, not pointing a finger and just taking the blame.

“When you’re the quarterback, any mistake a receiver or tight end will make, [fans and media] are going to blame it on the quarterback. He understands that. For him not to go and point fingers, that’s what you need in the quarterback. He’s a leader in the making.”

With a quarterback who does anything perceived as finger pointing, “The loyalty to him won’t be there,” Walker said. “You can’t trust him, you don’t know what he’s going to say to the media or how he’s going to react to us telling him, ‘You need to throw a better ball.’ How he is now, that’s what you ask for.”

The most recent young quarterbacks the Titans have turned to didn’t score too highly in that department.

Vince Young found fault in a lot of other people and was far more sensitive than self-critical. Jake Locker was opposite of Young in a lot of ways, which is a big part of why he was drafted. But he didn’t rush to acknowledge some of his deficiencies, like his inaccuracy. That was a topic that made him bristle at questions instead of taking on responsibility to an obvious flaw of which his teammates were well aware.

Ultimately, as each of those guys struggled, the criticism and willingness to find fault with themselves faded and they became increasingly defensive about their performances. In that circumstance, they were hardly willing to take on additional blame for problems that might not have actually belonged to them.

Human nature pushes guys in that direction. That’s part of what makes the arc of the QB growth curve so important. A young quarterback has to show signs that he can be productive and handle all facets of the job before the criticism that comes with early struggles can wear him down.

It’s like a race.

The winners all end up in the same place, according to Titans reserve quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.

“Everybody that’s successful for a long time in the league at that position talks like that, is accountable,” he said. “Everybody. I mean like 100 percent. I think everybody has noticed that about him. That’s how you need to be.

“A lot of the information that comes from the team, it’s the head coach and the quarterback. Not just the fans read that, but the team reads that, too. That’s the way it should be for the betterment of the team.”

“I think you assume everybody’s like that at the position. I think the surprise is when a guy’s not like that.”
Every Thursday I’ll present an interesting (to me, anyway) stat, break it down, and try to provide some context heading into the game the following weekend.

Robinson among league’s best

Robinson
Denard Robinson has certainly energized the Jacksonville Jaguars’ running game since taking over as the team’s primary back in Week 7. He has rushed for 389 yards and four touchdowns over that span. The yardage total is seventh and the TDs tied for third among players in the league in that span, too.

A better indicator of how effective Robinson has been for the Jaguars is his yards per carry. He’s averaging 5.4 yards on 72 carries in his last four games, which is the fourth-highest total among all players and third-highest total among running backs.

The top five:

QB Russell Wilson, Seattle: 8.14 yards per carry (350 yards on 43 carries)
RB Arian Foster, Houston: 5.62 yards per carry (309 yards on 55 carries)
RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City: 5.46 yards per carry (497 yards on 91 carries)
Robinson: 5.40 yards per carry (389 yards on 72 carries)
RB DeMarco Murray, Dallas: 5.27 yards per carry (448 yards on 85 carries)

Robinson’s numbers for the first six weeks: 94 yards on 28 carries (3.36 yards per carry).

"For Denard, you’ve got to give him all the credit, and the coaching staff, for his development," Jaguars GM David Caldwell said. "Over the offseason he got serious about football, gained about 20 pounds, maintained his weight and he’s just going to continue to get better. I think there’s even a higher ceiling for him than where he’s at now."
This weekend, two former LSU teammates will have to fade back into the background to some degree.

Alfred Blue and Jeremy Hill were productive for their NFL teams in the absence of their starting running backs. In a way, they were uniquely suited for it.

"At LSU, the running back room, we were always competitive," Blue said. "We had a lot of great running backs there. ... Running back coach always told us, the hot hand will get the ball. We never really had a starter. If you were the hot hand that week, you were going to get the ball. ... He used to tell us the starter was just the person who starts the game. It doesn't matter who starts the game. It's about who's going to go out there and dominate."

For the Bengals, Hill rushed for 361 yards in the past three games without starter Giovanni Bernard.

For the Texans, Blue rushed for 156 yards on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns while starter Arian Foster nursed a groin injury.

The Texans' quick tempo on Sunday meant they ran a lot of plays with their first-time starter, most of them on the ground. Blue set a franchise record, rushing 36 times in the Texans' 23-7 victory. He also played punt team and kickoff return, which meant he was very, very sore after the game and the next morning. When he started at LSU, he also played on every special teams unit.

"I’m kind of used to it, knowing that the coaches believe that I’m a dominant player on special teams," Blue said. "I just know my role that I might become a starter one week and still have to play on special teams. I prepare myself for that load."

Blue showed a tremendous amount of patience, a nod to his growth since getting to Houston. His stats weren't padded by any huge runs. He had one 21-yard run and two 14-yarders, but the other 107 yards came methodically.

"It's still difficult because at times you just want to lick your chops and cut it and break loose," Blue said. "You just gotta keep telling yourself before the ball, 'Okay, look at the defense. He might do this, he might do this.' Just keep pressing, pressing. You've just gotta keep telling yourself, 'Patience, patience, patience.'"

Patience will be key for him on a bigger scale, too. Foster returned to practice on Wednesday, and if he returns to the field this weekend fully healthy, Blue's carries will drop.

In the story linked above by my colleague Coley Harvey, Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson says Hill has earned more carries even with Bernard's return. I asked the same question on the Texans side of Bill O'Brien.

Has Blue earned more carries even when Foster is healthy?

"Alfred will play," he said. "Alfred will be in there."

Jaguars vs. Colts Preview

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
8:00
AM ET
video When: 1 p.m. Sunday. Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis. TV: CBS

INDIANAPOLIS -- What better way to get back on track than facing a team that has struggled all season?

The Indianapolis Colts, losers of two of their last three games, have an opportunity to rebound from an embarrassing 22-point loss at home to the New England Patriots last weekend when the face the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9). The Jaguars are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

The Colts beat Jacksonville 44-17 in Week 3.

ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells and Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco discuss Sunday’s game.

Wells: Quarterback Blake Bortles made his regular-season debut when he replaced Chad Henne against the Colts in late September. Where is he in his development, and is there confidence within the organization that he has the necessary tools to lead the franchise in the future?

DiRocco: The last six games will be important for Bortles, because it will give GM David Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley an indication of where he is in his development. Bortles has thrown an NFL-high 14 interceptions in the first 10 games, and the Jaguars want to see him average less than one per game over the last six. The Jaguars are pleased with Bortles’ understanding of the offense, his poise in the pocket and his confidence, especially the way he bounces back after throwing interceptions. They want to see improvement in his decision-making. He has thrown four pick-sixes and three interceptions in the red zone. They don’t want to see him throwing across his body any more, either. Even with those issues, Caldwell and Bradley have no doubts about Bortles being the player to lead the franchise over the next decade.

Losing Ahmad Bradshaw to a fractured ankle obviously will impact the running game. Does this mean it will be the Trent Richardson show from now on, and can the Colts rely on him to provide the balance the offense needs to keep teams from ganging up on Andrew Luck?

Wells: It’s put-up-or-shut-up time for Richardson. He shared the workload with Bradshaw in the nine games they played together, but now he’ll be the workhorse in the backfield. That’s kind of a scary thought when you take into account that Richardson rushed for zero yards on seven carries against the Patriots last weekend. Richardson and general manager Ryan Grigson have a lot on the line, because there’s no excuse for Richardson not to be effective. He has been in the system for more than a year and no longer has to split carries. Produce and it will soften the blow of Richardson’s inconsistent play the past year. Struggle and the questions continue as to why Grigson gave up a first-round draft pick for a player who hasn’t been worth it so far.

Denard Robinson is a familiar name to people up here in Big 10 country from his playing days at Michigan. I see that he leads the Jags in rushing. Why has the transition from quarterback to running back worked for him?

DiRocco: The most important thing is that he has always been dynamic with the ball in his hands, which we saw on a consistent basis at Michigan. He’s got good speed, vision and elusiveness in the open field. What he had to learn was how to carry the ball as a running back, which means adjusting to carrying the ball inside, reading blocks at the line of scrimmage to hit the hole and knowing that defenses are accounting for you on every play. It’s the opposite as a quarterback. Robinson added about 10 pounds to his frame in the offseason, and that has shown in the way he is running behind his pads. He’s running through arm tackles and pushing tacklers backward. This is just Robinson’s first season as a running back, so there is more room for development.

Losing to the Patriots the way they did at home indicates the Colts aren't quite ready to be considered a serious contender in the AFC. What pieces do they need to get there?

Wells: You’re right, the Colts can’t be taken as serious as contenders in the AFC, yet. Where do I start with their area of concerns? The offensive line has not progressed. The line is at fault, too, for the problems in the running game. Things changed once they replaced A.Q. Shipley at center with undrafted free agent Jonotthan Harrison. They averaged 118 yards a game rushing with Shipley starting at center, and they're only averaging 95 yards a game rushing with Harrison starting. That’s one. The defensive line was supposed to be improved with the addition of Arthur Jones. It has been fine with Jones on the field. The issue, though, is that Jones has played less than three games this season because of an ankle injury. The Colts could be looking for two new starting safeties in the offseason, because veteran Mike Adams is a free agent, and there’s no reason to believe LaRon Landry, who has been demoted, will be brought back next season.

Sticking with the running game, the Patriots gashed the Colts up for 244 yards last weekend. The Jaguars rushed for 105 yards against Indy earlier this season. Do you think they’ll try to copy what the Patriots did, or will they let Bortles fling the ball around the field to try to pull off the upset?

DiRocco: The Jaguars are striving for balance, not only because the Colts might be susceptible against the run but because they want to take some pressure off Bortles. Tight end Marcedes Lewis returns from a high ankle sprain this week, and that’s a big help in the running game. Lewis is one of the league’s better blocking tight ends and does a good job of setting the edge. One of the Jaguars’ biggest goals over the final six games is to cut down on turnovers, and that means Bortles taking more calculated risks. Bortles will have to make several plays in the passing game, but the Jaguars aren’t going to put the entire game on his shoulders.

It looks like the Colts haven't had a lot of success stopping the tight end this season, but Jaguars tight ends caught just one pass in the earlier meeting. Lewis wasn't playing then, and this will be his first game back. Why have the Colts had issues with tight ends?

Wells: Their linebackers aren’t fast enough to stay with opposing tight ends, and their safeties aren’t strong enough for them. Watch the video clip of New England’s Rob Gronkowski manhandling Sergio Brown on the sideline last weekend for further proof of that. Opposing quarterbacks recognize the mismatch and take advantage of it. Tight ends on Denver, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and New England all had effective games against the Colts. Indianapolis just doesn’t have the personnel capable of matching up with the athletic tight ends that play in the NFL these days.

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Bengals vs. Texans preview

November, 20, 2014
Nov 20
8:00
AM ET
video When: 1 p.m. ET, Sunday Where: NRG Stadium, Houston TV: CBS

The Cincinnati Bengals hold a special place in Houston Texans' lore. The Texans, who have been around since only 2002, have had some of their most memorable moments against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Actually, the most memorable moment in franchise history was a pick-six by J.J. Watt in the 2011 playoffs that turned the game in Houston's favor. That was the Texans' first ever playoff win. In fact, the Bengals are the only team the Texans have beat in the playoffs, having done it in consecutive years (2011-12).

Less is on the line this time, but the Texans (5-5) still hang onto hope they can weasel their way into the playoffs with a second-half push. They're currently second in the AFC South and only one game behind the Indianapolis Colts.

With some help from the Texans, who beat the Cleveland Browns last week, the Bengals sit atop the AFC North. Theirs is a division so tight the Browns tumbled from first to last with just one loss.

NFL Nation Bengals reporter Coley Harvey and Texans reporter Tania Ganguil discuss this week's matchup.

Ganguil: So Coley, Andy Dalton had a bit of a bounce-back game after an atrocious showing against the Browns two weeks ago. Why was he better? And which Dalton do you think we'll see on Sunday in Houston?

Harvey: There are so many reasons why Dalton was dramatically better this past week, Tania. For starters, he got better protection from his offensive line, specifically from his former TCU teammate Marshall Newhouse, who filled in the past two games for starting right tackle Andre Smith. Newhouse still wasn't great by any stretch, but he was better. Along with that, Dalton did a great job of anticipating pressure, even spinning out of danger on his very first play to scramble and pick up 11 yards for a first down. You saw a calmer, more poised quarterback in the pocket Sunday at New Orleans. He just looked rattled out of his mind against Cleveland during that Thursday night game. Dalton's accuracy also was better. He completed 72.7 percent of his passes, boosting his career record to 10-1-1 in games he has had a 70 percent or higher completion percentage. It's tough to say which Dalton we'll see this week. He's notoriously inconsistent and has had a history of playing poorly at NRG Stadium. It all comes down to whether the Bengals can be balanced offensively, and if he can stay upright in the pocket.

I'm sure every week you do these previews our NFL Nation colleagues ask you about Watt. My question about him is this: What can't he do?

Ganguli: We asked that question of Watt's teammates back in Week 2 when he caught his first touchdown pass. They came up with punting. And, uh, Watt's said he's not great at golf. On the football field, it seems there's little he can't do and the Texans are taking advantage of that. He's a guy who would be on the Jugs machine after training camp practices, waiting his turn with receivers. He works on every skill that could possibly be useful as a football player -- not just as a defensive end -- and that shows during games. Watt doesn't get the ball thrown to him every time he's in on an offensive snap, but he has caught touchdown passes on both of his targets this season. That stuff gets the most attention, but defensively Watt is a problem for every offense he faces. Between batted passes, sacks and quarterback hits, Watt has been the most disruptive player in the league since he entered it. The Browns regularly sent two toward him, sometimes more tried to help.

Since you brought him up: How will the Bengals handle Watt?

Harvey:
Glad you asked. This is where having Smith, the aforementioned tackle who has been out with an ankle injury, will be beneficial. Whether Smith plays or not, I'd imagine the Texans will want Watt to get pressure from that side of the line simply because it's the weakest edge. That's not an indictment on Smith. It's just that left tackle Andrew Whitworth is a Pro Bowler who may be having the best season of his career on the other side. Let’s assume Smith returns and plays right tackle. After practicing Wednesday, it appears that will happen. If I’m Watt, I’d expect double- and maybe even an occasional triple-team. Right guard Kevin Zeitler could provide some help, as could a tight end or H-back lined up on the other side of the right tackle. Per my unofficial film study, the Bengals used an extra blocker next to Newhouse 42.1 percent of the time. They'll also regularly have a running back or H-back Ryan Hewitt lined up in the backfield to give a little extra protection to Dalton. Another tactic? To get the ball out. Dalton has done that well this season, ranking second to Peyton Manning in shortest average time in the pocket. While Watt will be tough to slow, the Bengals also know they will have their hands full with a very talented defensive line.

Ryan Mallett looked really good in last Sunday's game, and clearly his teammates followed his lead in the win against the Browns. Is it too soon to anoint him the Texans' future at quarterback? And what more does he need to do to prove the reins are better in his hands instead of Ryan Fitzpatrick's?

Ganguli: Those are very different questions. Mallett showed on Sunday that the reins are better in his hands than Fitzpatrick's. I think we can already say that. Mallett's total QBR ranked fourth in the league on Sunday. The ball came out quicker with him throwing it than it did with Fitzpatrick, and his arm strength and trust in his arm was on display, even though his numbers were better on more intermediate throws. As for the future, Mallett said it himself: Sunday's game was just one. It was his first ever NFL start and his first win. He played well. The Texans planned well. But what we need to see next is what Mallett can do now that teams have film on him and can adjust better to what he does. Throughout their history, the Texans have struggled to find a franchise quarterback. Mallett showed against the Browns he can be that guy. Now it's up to him to show he will be.

Sticking with offense for you: What impact has the loss of Giovani Bernard had on the Bengals' offense? Will we see him this weekend?

Harvey: We'll take the second question first. It's still a little early in the week to say definitively if he'll play, but I have a feeling he'll be back in uniform for the first time in four weeks. With the Bengals taking his rehab slowly, I can't imagine he'll play his regular load, and I can't imagine he'll be taking the pounding up the middle that he had before. The Bengals have been able to absorb Bernard's loss quite well. Rookie Jeremy Hill has been better than advertised, ripping off a pair of 150-yard rushing performances in his absence. It's not far-fetched to make the claim right now that Hill is the best running back the Bengals have. That said, Bernard is the starter, and has ability in the pass-catching game that Hill and others don't. You'll see a heavy dose of Hill on Sunday. But if Bernard does play, it might not be the role Bengals fans are used to.

The personnel in Houston has changed significantly since the last time these teams met, but what, if anything, can carry over for the Texans from their playoff wins against the Bengals in 2011 and 2012? Those losses certainly have had staying power in Cincinnati, as they were the first of three straight postseason games Dalton has lost to start his career.

Ganguli: You're right that things have changed significantly here. The starting quarterback, head coach and both coordinators have changed. Since that 2011 win, the Texans have turned over most of their starting lineup, too. That 2011 win was the one in which Watt really became someone people noticed. It was before spectacular became normal for him and he made a spectacular play with that pick-six I mentioned earlier. I would say his ascent is the carry-over there. The 2012 Texans who faced the Bengals in that wild-card game were a team already declining. The seeds of their 2-14 season could be seen then as they were never even supposed to be in that position -- as the Texans bolted to an 11-1 start, they seemed destined for a first-round bye. By the way, Texans head coach Bill O'Brien would hurt you for this question. There's been a concerted effort from this team to not talk about the past -- especially not last season. They don't want to let those vibes creep back in.

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- One of the main goals the Jacksonville Jaguars have over the final six games is cutting down on turnovers.

Bortles
That begins with rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, who has thrown an NFL-high 14 interceptions and lost one fumble since he took over as the starter at halftime of the Week 3 game against Indianapolis. He knows it, and he's eager to show he's able to do it.

"We talk about that all the time, all about the ball, and just continue to have a conscience about it and protect it and take care of it," Bortles said Wednesday. "You don't need to be timid with it, especially playing quarterback, but you've got to be smart with it and understand when to take shots and when not to.

"Things are going to happen, you're going to get some bad breaks and turnovers are going to happen. You want to limit those and definitely try to not turn it over so much."

The Jaguars have committed 22 turnovers and have a minus-11 turnover ratio through 10 games, numbers that both rank next-to-last in the NFL. A bigger issue is that six of Bortles' 14 interceptions have come inside the opponents' 45-yard line, including five inside the 25.

Overall, though, Bortles has cut down his turnovers over the last two games. He threw a combined five interceptions in back-to-back weeks against Cleveland and Miami but threw just one each against Cincinnati and Dallas. Unfortunately, both came inside the opponents' 25.

"We're down to one [per game over the last two games] so I guess you could say that's getting better, but the goal is to have none," Bortles said. "You don't want to turn the ball over at all especially playing quarterback in this league. It's hard to do and that's something we continue to work on and it's a work in progress."

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said the Jaguars are getting Bortles to be more conscious of down, distance, time on the clock, score, and score differential in his decision making. Trailing by double digits late in the fourth quarter is the time to take more chances, not when the game is tied midway through the third. It's something they worked on pretty heavily in Wednesday's practice.

"When he gets into those situations, I think the challenge for him is just to play and not think too much," Bradley said. "I think what we want him to do when he gets into the team situations is just play with that clear mind. It's hard though. Make good decisions, but play with freedom. Don't throw interceptions, but be fearless. It almost feels contradictory at times.

"He's figuring it out and I know today in practice, he did some really good things and then some things he wish he had back. It was more good today, so that was good."
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts are getting some help along the defensive line at just the right time.

Defensive lineman Art Jones, who has played in less than three games this season because of an ankle injury, will be back in the lineup Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Nobody anticipated the ankle and the injury and those types of things and you don’t wish it on anybody and it is frustrating for everybody in this building, but he’s back out there and he has to go play and he has to go play well,” coach Chuck Pagano said.

Jones’ return comes after the New England Patriots rushed for 244 yards against the Colts last Sunday.

Jones has made his presence felt when he’s been on the field. The issue is he hasn’t been able to stay on the field long enough to have the type of impact the Colts envisioned when they signed him to a five-year, $33 million contract in March.

In the 104 snaps Jones has played this season, the Colts have not given up a rushing touchdown and they’ve allowed only five runs of at least 10 yards. The Colts have allowed 12 rushing touchdowns and 33 plays of at least 10 yards, including six to the Patriots, without Jones on the field.

In other injury news for the Colts on Wednesday:
  • Running back Trent Richardson didn’t practice because of an illness.
  • Cornerback Greg Toler has to go through the NFL’s concussion protocol before he can practice. He took a hit in the game against New England and showed up at the facility with a headache on Monday.
  • Tight end Dwayne Allen didn’t practice because of his injured ankle.
  • Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and receiver Reggie Wayne were given Wednesday off for rest days.
HOUSTON -- Three days after his backup set a franchise record for carries in a game and rushed for 156 yards on those 36 carries, Texans running back Arian Foster returned to practice.

Foster
Foster
Foster suffered a groin injury against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 2. The Texans did not have a game the following week. Foster did not practice all last week as the Texans prepared for the Browns and missed Sunday's game in Cleveland.

According to the injury report, the only player who didn't practice was Kareem Jackson. Foster, outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (knee), inside linebacker Brian Cushing (knee), inside linebacker Akeem Dent (neck) and cornerback Johnathan Joseph (knee) were listed as limited.

Asked for an update on Foster's condition, Texans coach Bill O'Brien opted for his traditional "day-to-day" designation.

Foster has played in eight of the Texans' 10 games this season, missing their Week 3 contest against the New York Giants. In his eight games, Foster has rushed for 822 yards, ranking third in the NFL behind Dallas running back DeMarco Murray and Pittsburgh running back Le'Veon Bell.
INDIANAPOLIS -- It was the perfect mix early in the season. The kind of mix the Indianapolis Colts had been waiting to have for more than a year.

Running backs Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw supplied enough on the ground to keep the defense honest and allow quarterback Andrew Luck to make plays with his arm.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck, Trent Richardson
Jonathan Moore/Getty ImagesThrough 11 weeks, Trent Richardson and the Colts rank 17th in rushing yards per game with 104.3.
First came the demotion of center A.Q. Shipley that still has yet to be explained. Then there were some injuries on the interior part of the offensive line. And to cap off what's been a very unimpressive past few weeks on the ground, the Colts lost Bradshaw for the season earlier this week because of a fractured fibula.

"It's like when Trent was out [against Pittsburgh] with the hammy, Ahmad was the guy then," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "The next man up filled that role. Trent and [Daniel "Boom" Herron] and whoever."

Richardson and Bradshaw have basically shared the workload this season, but if the Colts are going to use the same type of system they used against the Steelers on Oct. 26, that means Richardson will get the majority of the carries. Bradshaw played 48 of the 66 snaps against the Steelers, with Herron getting the other 18 snaps.

There's a good chance the Colts will add another running back to the active roster. LeGarrette Blount was released by Pittsburgh on Tuesday, and the Colts could also elevate Zurlon Tipton from the practice squad.

Something needs to be done with the running game because Indianapolis has not rushed for 100 yards in a game in its past three contests and in four of its past five. Not counting Luck's 15 yards rushing, Bradshaw and Richardson ran for an embarrassing four yards on 14 attempts against the New England Patriots last weekend.

The Colts were a cohesive group along the offensive line when Shipley started. They averaged 118 yards a game rushing in the four games he started. That average has drastically dropped since Jonotthan Harrison became the Colts' starting center. They're only averaging 95 yards a game rushing in the past five games. Guards Jack Mewhort and Hugh Thornton have both missed two games since Harrison became the starter.

Comparing opponents isn't a valid excuse because the Colts have always talked about having the ability to be successful no matter who's lined up on the other side of the line of scrimmage against them.

"It comes back to execution," Pagano said. "You never discount the opponent, you always give them credit, but again, you have to execute. We have a Jacksonville team that has a bunch of playmakers in their front seven. They have as good a [defensive line] as anybody.

"If you're not communicating and not on the same page, they're going to wreak havoc. You're going to have issues in your backfield. It's everybody being on the same page and doing their job."
On Sunday, Andre Johnson caught his 982nd NFL pass, lifting him to 10th all-time in career receptions.

In doing so, he tied Randy Moss on the list and will, barring injury, move ahead of him this weekend. He's 18 catches behind Hines Ward, who is ninth, and 42 catches behind Isaac Bruce in eighth.

Johnson
Johnson
After the game in Cleveland, Johnson showed his typical deference for those who have come before him.

"I used to wear the clown socks like he wore in college," Johnson said. "It's a tremendous honor."

The thing is, this happens often. Now in this 12th NFL season, Johnson has been eclipsing some of the greatest receivers of all time or at least matching their accomplishments with regularity.

"You never think about stuff like that," Johnson said. "When you come in, you just want to be a good player, play to the best of your ability. To be on the all-time list, that’s big. Like I said, I think it’ll all sink in the day that you hang them cleats up, you look back over your career and see what you’ve been able to accomplish."

He's interacted with a lot of those great receivers over time and received their praise either directly or indirectly. Earlier this season, Jerry Rice heaped praise upon Johnson -- that's special because Rice is the reason Johnson wears the number 80.

"Most of the time when you see them, they talk to you about what you’re doing on the field," Johnson said. "... It’s surprising because you never really know that those guys pay attention to you. A lot of them just tell me they love the way I play, the way I carry myself and approach the games. It’s just big to hear that from people who you’ve looked up to or watched growing up."
INDIANAPOLIS – Will the second time be the charm for Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy when it comes to getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Harrison, Dungy and Edgerrin James are among the 26 semifinalists for the Hall of Fame class of 2015. Former general manager Bill Polian was named as a contributor candidate earlier.

Harrison and Dungy missed out on being elected into the Hall of Fame's 2014 class earlier this year. Harrison had 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards and 128 receiving touchdowns in his career. Dungy led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory over the Chicago Bears in 2006 and had a 92-33 record as coach of the team. James is the Colts’ career leader in rushing yards with 9,226.

The 26 Modern Era candidates will be cut to 15 and the Hall of Fame Class of 2015 will be announced Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona, site of Super Bowl XLIX.

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