The Jacksonville Jaguars have won two straight games and four of their last six. At 4-4 midway through the season, the Jaguars are positioned nicely for playoff contention. They play three consecutive games against division rivals, with a week ten bye week to aid them.
Recent wins against the Jets, Bengals, and Broncos do little to prove that the Jaguars are for real. The combined records of those three is 3-20. Still, the Jaguars handled their business against teams that they should have. And against tougher opponents, like the Panthers, Saints, and Texans, the Jaguars have hung in there. They lost against those three teams by an average of five points per game.
So the question still remains: are these Jaguars contenders or pretenders?
Fans won't have to wait too long to find out the answer. The Texans are the perfect litmus test for these young Jaguars. It's fitting that the Jaguars play the Texans this week on several fronts.
This game will be an opportunity for Gardner Minshew to show that he's grown up since week two when the Jaguars lost by just one point in Houston. Who better to show his improvement against than the team that he started against for the first time in his young career? Of course, much of Minshew's struggles in that game stemmed from the offensive line's inability to pick up Houston's heavy blitz packages.
And what of Leonard Fournette and the Jaguars' rushing attack? Fournette is second in the NFL in rushing yards, but last time he faced the Texans, Fournette was stymied by Houston's front and averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. The Jaguars' offensive line will need to create holes, and Fournette needs to exploit them.
The Jaguars' defense against the Texans' offense is also an incredible battle. Led by former Jaguar Carlos Hyde, the Texans ran the ball for over 125 yards against the Jaguars in week two, but the Jaguars' run defense has tightened up in recent games. The aerial battle will supply fireworks, as well. This is the first time since before Jalen Ramsey was drafted that the Jaguars won't have 2.0 lined up against DeAndre Hopkins. Tre Herndon, who has been playing strong football in recent weeks, and AJ Bouye will have to do their best to slow down Hopkins and company.
A win against the Texans will prove that the Jaguars are here to stay. Getting to 5-4 and 2-1 in the division will give these young Jaguars' the confidence they need to make a playoff push. And it would be the Jaguars' first win over a team with a winning record. But a loss against Houston in London would be tough to stomach. Falling to 4-5 would mean the Jaguars could lose only one, maybe two more games the rest of the season.
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