For the third time in the first five weeks, the Jaguars find themselves in a divisional matchup. This time they are on the road against the Houston Texans who are in the midst of an ice-cold start. Bill O'Brien was finally shown the door after six and a quarter seasons with the team after getting off to an 0-4 start, but don't let that fool you. This team is way better than their 0-4 record suggests, and I think a breath of fresh air will do them well. Relatively healthy, the Texans host the Jaguars this week who have a rash of injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Good thing the Jaguars can't get much worse defensively, but they will be officially without second-year defensive end Josh Allen. On top of that, things could get worse with linebacker Myles Jack, and rookie cornerback CJ Henderson still listed as questionable heading into Sunday. With DJ Hayden on IR, this defensive backfield has more holes than you could imagine, and could potentially be without their three best players across all the levels of the defense. If that's not discouraging, then I don't know what is…
The blueprint offensively is simple: run the ball, and then run it again. Last year, the Jaguars were notoriously bad at stopping the run, and this year the Texans appear to have the same issue. Their defense is allowing close to 400 yards per game through the first quarter of the season, 182 of those coming from the run game. The Jaguars are averaging 105 rushing yards per game at 4.8 yards per carry. The team should be elated to lean on undrafted rookie James Robinson today. He has shown through the first four weeks that he is a three-down back, no way around it. He has been one of, if not the biggest bright spot for the Jaguars offensively this season. With Brandon Linder expected to play, the offensive line should be at full force this Sunday, and Jay Gruden should take advantage. With the defense struggling, the offense will have a role this week in keeping points off the board for the Texans. As long as Deshaun Watson is on the sideline, the Texans scoring chances will be limited. If the Jaguars want to come out of Houston with a win, they will need to control the clock and time of possession by running the ball effectively. The path to victory in this one folks, looks awfully similar to the one we witnessed in Week 1. Running the ball early and often will keep you ahead of the sticks, and in manageable third-down situations. If Gardner Minshew can follow that up by protecting the ball, which is something he has struggled to do since the Week 1 victory over Indianapolis, the Jaguars will have a chance to get right back in this thing at 2-3, and most likely end all hopes for the Texans should they fall to 0-5.
Defensively, all we can hope for is that the Jaguars can limit the amount of points they give up each time Deshaun Watson and the Texans offense take the field. With the string of injuries on the defensive side of the ball, an already weak unit will be much more vulnerable today with the absence of Josh Allen, and by game time Sunday, they could be without a couple more premier players. The Jaguars have given up 97 points in the last three contests. At 29 points per game, the Jaguars are amongst the worst teams once again defensively. Their inability to stop anyone since Week 1 has not bode well for the offense. They are not geared to stay in shootout type games, but to their credit, they have kept it close in two of their three losses so far. A few plays here and there, and the Jaguars may be sitting at 3-2, but they're not. Deshaun Watson is a premier passer in this league, and with the way this secondary has been shredded by the likes of NFL journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, and rookie stud Joe Burrow, I expect Watson will have a stellar performance while looking to get this team back on track. Pass rush will be limited, and the defensive backfield will also be thin. The Houston offense is going to get its chances, but to have hope for a victory, the defense will need to limit those chances and at the very least limit the points they give up in those situations. I fully expect Deshaun Watson to come out and fling the ball all over the yard this afternoon. The key for this Jaguars' defense will be not giving up any home-run plays. You can not allow the Texans' offense quick points through big plays. The more time the Houston offense has on the field, the more chances they have to score. If the defense is going to give up yards, they must make sure that at the very least they make the Texan's offense utilize a bunch of clock. The golden ticket to victory will be whether or not the Jaguars' defense can limit points per drive once the field begins to shrink. Once the Texans enter the red zone, all there is to do is keep them from getting over the top. Force them into field goal situations, and bend but don't break. They're going to score, but limiting them to 3 points on a long drive will chew clock, and allow the offense to keep up and even pull away. It's not the most conventional defensive gameplan, but we don't have much hope when it comes to stopping anyone right now.
On the Special Teams front, the Jaguars are on their fifth kicker in week five, and that is all I am going to say about that. A once consistent and reliable bright spot or this team has turned into a nightmare… It should be more of the same this afternoon. Look for the Jaguars to be more aggressive on fourth downs deep in enemy territory, and dare I even say look for them to be aggressive in going for two, especially if the "analytics" suggest it...
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