The Houston Texans might not make the playoffs, but playing a meaningful Week 17 game is certainly a sign of progress for a franchise that's endured considerable adversity over two seasons.
With their postseason hopes alive, the resilient Texans look to continue their late-season surge Sunday while trying to make sure the Jacksonville Jaguars finish winless on the road for the second time in team history.
A year removed from a 2-14 debacle, Houston (8-7) can make the playoffs for the third time in four seasons with a win Sunday and losses by San Diego and Baltimore.
''It's incredible, especially coming from last year, losing 14 straight and knowing that you're out of it,'' safety D.J. Swearinger said. ''Just taking care of business one game at a time and knowing that you may get in there is good.''
Winners of three of four, the Texans have overcome the loss of three quarterbacks and a season-ending injury to underachieving defensive end Jadeveon Clowney to reach this point.
''You want to be in this position where the game means something,'' first-year coach Bill O'Brien said.
Case Keenum, who went 0-8 in 2013 before being released by the Texans in training camp, was re-signed last week. He managed the offense well enough in last Sunday's 25-13 win over Baltimore, going 20 of 42 for 185 yards with an interception.
He benefited from six Randy Bullock field goals, 96 rushing yards and a TD pass from Arian Foster and a defense that forced three turnovers and held the Ravens to a season-low 211 yards.
''It's pretty special,'' said end J.J. Watt, who has recorded eight of his 17 1/2 sacks in the last four games. ''I think it's a testament to our team. It's a testament to the coaching staff, to (the) guys we have.
"It was fun. Days like (that) are a blast.''
Houston is in position to reach the postseason thanks to Watt and a defense that's allowed an average of 15.5 points during a 4-2 stretch. The Texans have forced a team-record 34 turnovers they've turned into 123 points, also the most in team history.
''We just keep it going,'' safety Kendrick Lewis said.
The Texans held Jacksonville (3-12) to one touchdown and 262 yards in a 27-13 win Dec. 7. They forced one turnover but sacked Blake Bortles four times.
Though Jacksonville is about to conclude a fourth straight season with a losing record and could match the 2003 team that didn't win a road game, Houston won't take for granted a group that's looking to win back-to-back games for the first time in 2014.
''The most important thing about this week is the Jacksonville Jaguars and that we are very, very focused on them,'' O'Brien said. ''Our guys should really not look at their record at all. It's a very tough football team in all three phases.''
Foster rushed for 127 yards and a TD on Dec. 7 and has run for seven touchdowns in his last seven games in the series. He's gained 382 yards in three career home contests against the Jaguars.
Keenum, however, completed 54.0 percent of his passes for 328 yards, one TD and two INTs while posting a 60.8 rating in losing both starts against the Jaguars as a rookie last season.
Bortles, who went 20 of 39 for 205 yards with a TD and an INT against the Texans this month, threw a TD without a pick and ran for 50 yards on a sprained foot in Thursday's 21-13 win over Tennessee.
Bortles has thrown one fewer interception than Jay Cutler (league-leading 18) and the 50 times he's been sacked are also the second most in the NFL. Coach Gus Bradley, though, has seen the comfort level of his quarterback and other young players continue to rise.
''We're trying to develop these guys and trying to create a mentality of making it highly competitive so we can get the most out of everybody,'' he said.
Jacksonville running back Toby Gerhart's status for Sunday is uncertain after he suffered bruised ribs against the Titans. Backup Jordan Todman, who broke free for a 62-yard TD run last week, could start in Gerhart's place.
"I really like the development of our guys," Bradley told the Jaguars' official website. "I think as a coaching staff we want to be around a bunch of guys that love football and they have really, really good spirit and it's infectious and they can't wait to come to the facility and work."