While the NFL has certainly taken a turn towards a passing league with the teams with the best passers rising to the top, there is still something to be said about a team that can control the line of scrimmage and the time of possession in a game. The philosophy of running the ball and stopping the run is one that probably isn't enough to win a Super Bowl by itself, but it can be enough in certain games and certain situations.
This week's game against the Texans could be one of those games.
The Texans enter the game with the league's 5th best rushing offense on the back of a game against the Titans in which both Arian Foster and Ben Tate eclipsed the 100 yard mark. They also enter with the 7th best rushing defense. Finding success against these units would go a long way towards the Jaguars reaching their desired end result.
While the Texans rank 7th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, those stats are skewed a bit by the fact that they've only been rushed at 22.1 times a game. That ranks 27th in the NFL while the Jaguars' 26.0 times a game ranks 17th. So in terms of yards per carry, the Jaguars are tied at 10th while the Texans are in a three way tie for 18th.
Football Outsiders says it's even worse for the Texans, ranking their defensive line as the 21st best at stopping the run. While they have been very good at stopping runs off tackle, they rank 29th at stopping runs up the middle of the defensive line.
This bodes well for a Jaguars team that, according to FO, runs the ball up the middle on a league-high 74% of their run plays. Oddly enough, Houston is the team attacked most up the middle as 74% of the runs against them are up the middle.
A power running game through the middle is probably what we should expect from the Jaguars if they wish to slow down a Houston Texans team that is 3rd in the league in time of possession. But to truly slow the Texans offense, they will need to shut down Arian Foster and the Texans running game.
In their last game against the Texans, Foster ripped off 180 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 31 carries. Now that he is healthy again and Andre Johnson has been ruled out for Sunday's game, he will likely be featured heavily for the Texans.
The Jaguars are the 9th best team at stopping the run according to FO. On FO they break the running games into five sections and the Jaguars are particularly good at stopping runs around the left end and behind the right tackle. While they are slightly above average at stopping runs up the middle, they are towards the bottom of the league at stopping runs behind the left tackle and around the right end.
Luckily for the Jaguars the two weakest areas for the 4th ranked Texans rushing offense match up with the Jaguars weaknesses. They are slightly below the league average at running behind the left tackle and slightly below average at running around the right end. Their strongest areas are directly up the middle and around the left end.
I'd expect the Jaguars to run similar coverage schemes as they did against the Ravens, especially with the Texans top receiving threat out of the game. If they can stop the Houston rushing offense and control the clock themselves, there's a very good chance that the Jaguars will be able to slow the Texans offense down from their 26 points a game average and put up some points on the board themselves.