The Jets are playing for pride. The Texans are playing for playoff position.
And that's enough to make Saturday night's game intriguing. The Jets (New York Jets championship rings) have the chance to play spoiler and validate their impressive comeback win last week in Buffalo where they ended a six-game losing streak. The Texans are trying to bounce back after the Colts ended their nine-game winning streak last week.
Here's how the Jets and Titans match up in week 15.
Jets (super bowl rings) : This is the second game the Jets will play after being officially eliminated from playoff contention. But there is still a lot on the line. Within the locker room, there's still a belief among the players that they can save coach Todd Bowles' job by winning out. (They're probably not wrong, by the way.) There are also plenty of players auditioning to come back to the Jets next year, or earn a contract elsewhere. And the Jets are also trying to build momentum for 2019, and winning will help cultivate confidence going forward. So expect this team to play hard, even if it means nothing for this season.
Texans: This is an important game for the Texans (9-4) who have a two-game lead over the Colts in the AFC South with three games to play. A win here will pretty much lock up the division and a trip to the playoffs. But a loss could make things tricky. Houston is trying to rebound from last week's loss to the Colts, their first loss since September. The Texans won nine straight after starting 0-3 and nearly starting 0-4. This is a chance for them to take care of business against a clearly inferior and banged up team.
Jets offensive line vs. Texans DE J.J. Watt and LB Jadeveon Clowney: They're probably the most dangerous pass-rushing combination in the league. And if they get to Sam Darnold early, it could be a long and terrible day for the rookie quarterback and his offensive teammates -- who are already shorthanded with running back Isaiah Crowell and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa out. Clowney and Watt are capable of lining up just about anywhere, so this is going to be a team effort from an offensive line that is already in patchwork mode with starting left guard James Carpenter out for the season -- expect Spencer Long to start at left guard and Jonotthan Harrison to continue at center, and for the Jets to employ some creative formations featuring Brent Qvale and Dakota Dozier as blockers. If the Jets can slow down Watt and Clowney, they might have a chance.
How they'll win:
Jets (cheap championship rings): They're missing two of their top offensive weapons, so the defense is going to have to step up in a big way if the Jets want to stay in this game. That will start with slowing down Deshaun Watson who is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the league. If the Jets get pressure on him, he's a threat to scramble for big gains. If the Jets' defense can keep those in check -- which hasn't exactly been a strong suit -- it will go a long way toward limiting the offense. They also need to keep DeAndre Hopkins in check (84 catches for 1151 yards and 9 touchdowns this season) and while running back Lamar Miller (909 yards rushing, 4 touchdowns) will likely be effective, they cant' let him break a big run.
Texans: Their clearest and easiest path to a win is to get pressure on Darnold early, make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket, and force him into throwing one or more costly interceptions. If the Jets offense turns over the ball, this could turn into a rout. This is also a good opportunity for the offense. The way the Jets defense has played this year, it's likely just a matter of time before they give up a huge play. So if the Texans keep feeding the ball to Miller -- he had a 97-yard touchdown run earlier this season -- or Hopkins, it seems inevitable that they'll be able to break the game open.