The (3-3) Houston Texans travel to take on the (3-3) Jacksonville Jaguars in a huge AFC south divisional game at 1:00 PM on Sunday at TIAA Bank field. The Jags are coming off two straight blowout, disappointing losses against the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys. The Texans on the other hand, are currently on 3 game winning streak and have positioned themselves back in the division game. This game is a HUGE game for both teams to stay atop of the AFC south and possibly lead the division after this week. I’ll break it down.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Establishing a passing game.
The Jags must get something going on offense to even have a chance at the game. Last week against the Cowboys, the Jaguars only had two first downs in the first half and many 3 and outs. The offense has really struggled over the last two weeks and haven’t had any success running or throwing the ball effectively, which have resulted in two blowout losses. Running back Leonard Fournette is still out, T.J Yeldon has been banged up the whole season, and the Jags just acquired running backs Jamaal Charles, David Williams, and Carlos Hyde; who are still learning the playbook. While newly acquired running back Carlos Hyde will likely have an impact in the near future, it won’t be this week as he only been here a day and still has to get acclimated to the playbook. So this week will depend on Quarterback Blake Bortles and the Jaguars wide receivers to make plays and provide a much needed spark for the offense. The task won’t be easy as the Texans have proven veterans throughout the secondary in cornerback Jonathan Joseph, safeties Kareem Jackson and Tyran Matheiu.
Jaguars defensive line vs the Texans offensive line.
Last year the Jaguars defensive line absolutely dominated the Texans offensive line in the 2017 season opener. Jaguars recorded 10 sacks and got the nickname “Sacksonville” out of the performance which set the tone for the rest of the season. The Texans offensive line looks no different from last season as they rank 1st in the NFL in allowing 65 QB hits so far this season, which is 15 more than any other team. They also rank 2nd in the NFL in sacks allowed, giving up 25 sacks this season. If the Jags defense want to live up to the “Sacksonville” name, this is the week to get it going. Last week the Jaguars defense had it’s worst performance in three years. If they want to fix it, the defensive line must dominate an inferior Texans offensive line on Sunday.
Tyler Patmon vs Keke Coutee
The matchup everyone will be watching is Jalen Ramsey vs Deandre Hopkins. It’s a must see every time these two teams play. Arguably the two best at their positions, going at it every play. Will Fuller and cornerback A.J Bouye will also be another great matchup. The key matchup in my opinion, will be in the slot with Tyler Patmon going against Keke Coutee. Nickel cornerback Tyler Patmon has been solid this season filling in for D.J Hayden. Last week, he really struggled against the Cowboys and their slot receiver Cole Beasley. Beasley went on to have the 2nd best game of his career, recording 11 receptions with 102 yards and 2 TD’S. Patmon may not be responsible for all of that, but there were times where Patmon looked really lost in coverage and struggled. This Sunday, Patmon has a tough task covering Texans rookie receiver Keke Coutee. Coutee is rookie drafted in the 4th round from Texas Tech, he mostly plays in the slot so he will be matched up with Patmon for majority of the game. Coutee missed the first 3 games of the season, but instantly made an impact as soon as he came back in the lineup. In his first game back, Coutee had 11 receptions for 109 yards against the Colts. The following week he had 6 receptions for 59 yards and a TD and last week he recorded 3 receptions for 33 yards. Expect the Texans to look for Coutee a lot especially with Bouye and Ramsey on the outside. The Texans will look to exploit Patmon like the Cowboys did last week with Beasley, so it’s important for Patmon to step up and bounce back this week.
This game is a make or break game for the Jaguars. There is no sugar coating it, this is a huge and must win game. There is no other way to put it. If the Jags lose, they are 3-4 on the season, and 0-2 vs the AFC South. Not only 0-2 vs the AFC South, but 0-2 vs the AFC South at home! Which means they will only have one more game at home and three on the road inside the division. After two straight embarrassing losses, a loss to the Texans at home, could put the season in turmoil. The Jaguars have many different personalities inside the locker room. A loss to an AFC South team at home could start finger pointing, blaming and causing the locker room to divide especially when there are super bowl expectations. The task on Sunday will not be easy. This is a tale of two different teams. The Texans started 0-3 and now have won three straight games. The Jaguars started 3-1 and have since lost two straight in ugly, embarrassing fashion. If the Jaguars want to win, the offense must create long sustained drives and help keep the defense off the field. The defense also needs to step it up. Last week, they let a subpar QB in Dak Prescott and probably the worst receiving core they’ll play all year, pick them apart. Prescott was effective as a passer and a runner. That should worry you going into this weekend’s game and going against Deshaun Watson who is a better passer and runner than Prescott. The Jaguars always seem to struggle with mobile QB’s who like to roll out and complete short passes. Whether it’s Marcus Mariota, Jimmy Garoppolo, Blaine Gabbert (in Arizona last season), Mahomes, or Prescott. The Jags must attack the Texans offense and blitz Watson. Todd Wash must play aggressive with Jalen Ramsey playing right on Hopkins and not 10 yards off the ball which allows teams to complete easy passes and march down the field with long drives. If you call yourself the best defense than prove it because so far this season, it hasn’t been up to that standard. The defense must play to it’s potential and 2017 form if the Jags want to win this game. If not, then the Jaguars could see their super bowl aspirations slipping away.
Jaguars 27 Texans 14.
I think the Jags are motivated and bounce back in convincing fashion. The defense plays up to their standard and Bortles provides a spark in the passing game to give the Jags a much needed divisional win.