Jaguars vs. Texans Betting Odds & Pick: Trust Houston In First Game Without Bill O’Brien
Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Deshaun Watson
Jaguars vs. Texans Odds
The Texans host the Jaguars in a battle of teams at the bottom of the AFC South that entered 2020 with differing expectations.
The Texans made the playoffs last season and, while they traded away DeAndre Hopkins, were built to win now coming off a fourth division title in six seasons. Feeling the urgency of an 0-4 start, Houston gambled and fired its head coach (and general manager) after last week’s loss to the previously winless Vikings with hopes of turning its season around.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars nearly started the season 2-0. After upsetting the Colts in Week 1, it took late-game heroics from Ryan Tannehill to give the Titans a Week 2 win. Losses to the Dolphins and Bengals have shown that the Jaguars are closer to the team most thought they would be entering the season, one that is rebuilding.
This has the makings of a bounce-back game for the Texans. Let’s dig into why.
The Jaguars’ offense could be in line for a big day against a Texans defense that ranks last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and has allowed the second-highest quarterback rating through four weeks. As the Jags showed last week against the Bengals, who entered the game allowing the second most rushing yards per game in the league, a good matchup isn’t enough.
Like their Week 5 opponents, early offense has been a major struggle for the Jaguars, as 208 of their 247 offensive plays this season have been run while trailing. Expect the winless Texans, who have similarly struggled early in games to the tune of 14 first-quarter points this season, to come out swinging offensively in a last-ditch effort to save their season.
The Jaguars’ big test will be in attempting to contain quarterback Deshaun Watson. Houston is averaging 8.6 yards per pass attempt, which ranks sixth in the league. The key to slowing the Texans’ passing attack has been applying pressure on Watson before he has the chance to throw. Houston has allowed 16 sacks this season, the most in the NFL.
Jacksonville will be shorthanded in its pass rush, though, as Josh Allen has been ruled out due to a knee injury. Coming off a Pro Bowl campaign last season as a rookie, Allen registered a sack in each of the Jags’ last two games.
The Texans were done no favors with their schedule to start the 2020 season. Their first three opponents — the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers — have one combined loss, and that was a Baltimore loss to Kansas City. Then Week 4 brought a winless Vikings team to NRG Stadium, but Minnesota headed back north with a victory thanks to a late goal-line stand.
These struggles lead to Houston firing Bill O’Brien. It’s difficult to predict how teams will fare after having a coach let go during the season, but there has been a small bump in favor of those teams. Houston hasn’t given up on this season, so it’s reasonable to believe a team that made the playoffs a year ago will come out firing.
The Texans’ offense showed signs of life in the fourth quarter against the Vikings, coming within one yard of two touchdowns in the final 10 minutes of the game. Their success should continue against a Jaguars defense that has allowed points on 55% of drives despite playing teams that rank 21st or worse in yards per play.
An above-average pass rush was the Jaguars’ best chance at slowing down Watson, but that unit could struggle without Allen. If Watson has time to throw, he may finally be able to connect with deep threats like Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller for the big plays that Houston has been missing so far this season.
The Texans’ big weakness on defense has been containing the run, as they rank last in the NFL in yards allowed per game. The Bengals were 31st in rushing yards allowed per game at 181.7 entering their Week 4 matchup against the Jaguars, which is just what the doctor ordered, but Cincinnati held Jacksonville to just 89 yards on the ground.
A similarly strong performance against the run would be huge for the Texans, who would love to make Gardner Minshew beat them instead of early season surprise package James Robinson in the Jags’ backfield.
Expect the winless Texans to come out with renewed energy to show the league that they are no pushover. Houston has scored just 14 points this season in the first quarter, a mark it will surely look to improve. If the Texans can make that happen, the rest will be up to the Texans’ defense to bounce back and keep the Jaguars offense in check, which is what I expect to happen.
PICK: Texans -5.5