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Jaguars coach Doug Pederson doesn't plan to rest starters vs. Texans: 'You play to win every game'

The Jaguars and Titans have little to play for in Week 17 as far as the playoff picture goes when they take on the Texans and Cowboys, respectively.

In Week 18, though? The two teams face off in Jacksonville with the AFC South crown going to the victor, which creates an intriguing conundrum about how to approach the quasi-bye week inbetween.

Count Jaguars coach Doug Pederson as one who sees no reason to ease off the throttle.

"There's never a meaningless game," Pederson said. "Never, ever, ever, ever. You play to win every game. The only way I rest players is if they're hurt and can't go."

There's a bevy of reasons to keep playing starters ahead of a winner-take-all Week 18 game. For one, Jacksonville has been on a tear, going 4-1 since its Week 11 bye to pull even with the slumping Titans, losers of their last five. That momentum isn't guaranteed to last through a weekend spent resting starters.

There's also pride on the line facing a Houston team that earned one of its two wins in 2022 over Jacksonville.

"It's an AFC South opponent, and they beat us in Week 5." Pederson said. "So we've got to have a great week of preparation. We understand that. We still got some unfinished business."

That means we can expect to see stars like Trevor Lawrence suit up this Sunday despite appearing on the injury report with a toe issue in Weeks 14-16. He's completed 123 of 183 passes for 1,415 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception during the Jags' last five games.

As for the Titans, who are also contending with a short week with the Cowboys on deck this Thursday, head coach Mike Vrabel has adapted a wait-and-see approach.

"I think we'll have to prepare this week and see where guys are on Wednesday and even Thursday before we ultimately make a decision and see who you feel like could have a setback or who could need some time," Vrabel said Monday, via The Tennessean. "Those we'll have to look at."

The Titans have had a litany of players with DNP designations on the injury report this week, such as key defenders Jeffery Simmons and Bud Dupree. Running back Derrick Henry has also been dealing with a hip injury, and it's crucial that he's right for the season finale given his role as the offense's engine.

Whatever strategy the rivals ultimately roll with this week, expect both to go full tilt in a Week 18 showdown that either ends with the Titans as AFC South champs for the third straight year or sees the Jaguars recapture the division for the first time since 2017.

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