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'Thursday Night Football' preview: 5 things to watch

Call Thursday night's matchup between the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars the Confusion Bowl.

CHARGERS AT BRONCOS
Thursday, Dec. 12, 8 p.m. ET
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The objective of every NFL team is to win, and players are hard-wired to compete regardless of extenuating circumstances. But in truth, a win does little to help either the Texans or Jags. It actually could hurt.

For two teams with a combined record of 5-19, it's all about next year. Thursday's result could go a long way toward determining which team owns the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. So a loss on Thursday is, on one level, a win. And a win is, well, you know.

See? Confusion!

Here are five things to watch in Thursday's matchup:

1. The audition process continues for Case Keenum. The Texans quarterback has had some nice moments since taking over for Matt Schaub, and you won't find many people who are calling for Schaub to return. But Keenum's also 0-6 as a starter, and he could use a couple of wins in the stretch run to beef up his resume. The Texans likely will use a high draft pick on a QB regardless, but Keenum can get the organization thinking with a strong finish.

2. What are we to make of Maurice Jones-Drew? MJD hasn't been the same guy in his return from a Lisfranc injury, averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per rush this season. Barring a turnaround to end the season, Jones-Drew could hit free agency as an undersized 29-year-old running back whose production is trending southward. Can't imagine there will be a huge market for that.

3. The Texans have lost 10 consecutive games, which is very, very bad. But at least give Gary Kubiak's team credit for being competitive. Houston has six straight losses by seven points or fewer, tying an NFL record set by the 1993 New England Patriots. (For history junkies, that was Bill Parcells' first season in Foxborough.)

4. Some more statistical fun on Keenum, courtesy of the NFL Media research department: Keenum has the highest passer rating (86.1) for a first-year undrafted player since at least 1960. He's also not afraid to push the ball downfield -- 10.7 percent of his completions have been on passes thrown 25-plus yards downfield. That's the highest percentage in the NFL, well ahead of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (7.6 percent).

5. J.J. Watt is well behind his sack and batted pass (J.J. Swatts) numbers of this time last season, but don't get the impression that the defensive tackle is having a down year. Watt remains as beastly as ever, and actually has more QB hits than he had at this time last season (38 to 31).

The latest "Around The League Podcast" debates the Seahawks' Super Bowl chances and asks "Who do you trust?" as the playoffs approach.

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