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Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans primer: Key matchups, storylines, predictions, and more for Week 7

The Jacksonville Jaguars play their second divisional game of the season as they host the 3-3 Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field at 1:00pm EST.

For those not attending the game, we are so freaking back in the broadcast booth, baby.

UNIFORM WATCH: Going back to teal tops/white points for that good juju.


The Texans are on a three game winning streak. Technically, this is a true statement. However, their last three wins have been relatively underwhelming against the Indianapolis Colts (which had to go to overtime), the Dallas Cowboys (which had to go to overtime) and the Buffalo Bills (who may have won the game if Nathan Peterman never happened). Wins are wins though, and that’s good enough for these Texans players to feel good about themselves and roll into this week with a ton of momentum.

Offensively, the Texans offensive line is a sieve, and their starting offensive tackles have collectively allowed the most pressures in the NFL this year. To make matters worse, starting right guard Zach Fulton hasn’t practiced as of Thursday and his status is up in the air for Sunday. The Jaguars defensive line that has been criticized for a lack of sacks and impact pressures this year should be foaming at the mouth looking at their match ups this week with the opportunity to go against the unit who has allowed the second-most sacks (25) in the NFL this year.

The problem is the mobility of Deshaun Watson, which has given the Jaguars issues this season and in the past. If Watson can operate under duress, he could be forced to throw some bad interceptions, which he’s done a few times already in 2018. Moreover, the Texans red zone offense this season has been cataclysmically bad, so in the event they do get inside the Jaguars twenty yard line, the defense needs to anchor down and take care of business. The Texans have some good talent at wide receiver, but oddly enough, only have one explosive play of 40+ yards this season.

Defensively, the Texans have returned to their pre-injury plagued 2017 form. J.J. Watt is once again a one-man wrecking crew and Jadeveon Clowney is playing like he’s in a contract year on the other side. Zach Cunningham has developed very nicely at inside linebacker next to Bernardrick McKinney, and while he doesn’t have flashy stats this year, newcomer Tyrann Mathieu has been a solid veteran presence in the secondary.

The Texans’ only real issue has been injuries in the secondary, and their major Achilles heel is the cornerback spot opposite Johnathan Joseph, where journeyman Shareece Wright is likely to get the start for the injured Kevin Johnson and Aaron Colvin. Rookie safety from Stanford Justin Reid has played exceptionally well and may be yet another solid long-term piece to this defense. With how poorly the Jaguars offense has played, this match up will be tough sledding.

Check out Ryan O’Bleness’ article for more information on this all-time series matchups and some interesting tidbits on where the Jaguars stand against the Texans.


I don’t want to overreact, but this is a must-win game. The Jaguars simply cannot afford to go in a 0-2 hole against divisional opponents, especially with the Titans and Texans both being undefeated in the division. This season is strongly starting to look like it could end in a tie in the AFC South, so those head-to-head tiebreakers might be crucial for deciding who gets into the playoffs. Three losses in a row would cause a brooding atmosphere during a seven hour plane ride to London next week.

The mood of the team this week has been back to the basics. The players have felt the repercussions of their losses in consecutive weeks and the coaching staff’s frustration has manifested in the form of running tougher practices this week that players have described as having a training camp-like feel. The major debate this week has been scheme-driven raising concerns that this defense is playing too much zone coverage.

I followed this up with an article on Wednesday that showed that the Jaguars cornerbacks are lining up with much more cushion this year than they were last year. Below is how often Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye lined up in press in week one last season when the defense registered ten sacks and some turnovers.

Is this the defense we’re going to see this week? Are they healthy enough to play it? Personally, what adjustments Todd Wash makes will be one of the most interesting storylines that I will be following specifically in this game.

Something else to monitor will be how banged up Deshaun Watson is and whether he can weather some hits by the Jaguars defensive line. It has been reported that Watson has played through some rib issues and even a collapsed lung, and while the word from Houston this week is that he’s feeling much better, this kind of injury is one that is easily re-activated with just one hit. Will this effect Watson’s decision-making and cause him to be more conservative when scrambling? This is something to keep an eye on.

Key matchups

Jalen Ramsey vs. DeAndre Hopkins

Ramsey isn’t talking right now and Hopkins was relegated to “did not practice” on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. Any other day, this is one of the most must-see match ups of the year in the NFL, but with both players banged up, we might not see the usual fireworks. The Texans also have additional weapons available to them on offense in Will Fuller and Keke Coutee, so they’re not even forced to go to Hopkins on every play like usual. Speaking of Coutee...

Tyler Patmon vs. Keke Coutee

While Tyler Patmon is the nickel cornerback, Cole Beasley’s monster stat line wasn’t entirely his fault last week. In fact, the Jaguars swapped Patmon and Bouye on a few occasions, which was new and different to me. This being said, there were certainly times where it appeared that Patmon was out of position in his zone assignment, and things don’t get any easier this week against impressive rookie Keke Coutee. Coutee’s 11 catches for 109 yards were most receptions in a debut since the AFL-NFL merger, and he has the most receptions in his first three career games in franchise history over names like Hopkins and Andre Johnson. Patmon’s got his hands full this week, especially with a potentially banged up Hopkins.

Yannick Ngakoue/Calais Campbell vs. Julien Davenport/Kendall Lamm

If there was ever a week for this defense to come alive and make up some ground in the sack department, it’s this one. Last year, “Sacksonville” fluffed up their numbers with a ten-sack performance in their road debut in Houston, and they haven’t had a game like this so far this season to stack the numbers in their favor. The Texans have the worst starting offensive tackle tandem in the league so far this year and they need win their individual edge match ups to get pressure on Watson. They should also mix it up with a spy (Myles Jack? Telvin Smith?) this week to mitigate the gashing runs by mobile quarterbacks they’ve been allowing.

Josh Walker/Andrew Norwell vs. J.J. Watt

I’m listing Josh Walker here since there is no concrete evidence or announcement that Ereck Flowers gets the start, but regardless of who lines up on the left side, they will have a nightmare match up against J.J. Watt, who is back to playing like a former Defensive Player of the Year. Walker and Norwell are going to need to double team Watt on almost every play, and even that may not be enough as he’s been busting through triple teams with aplomb this season. Doing this, however, makes you susceptible to Bernardrick McKinney blitzes up the middle, so the blitz pick up by the running backs will be crucial this week. The other side doesn’t get much easier with a motivated Jadeveon Clowney going against an inconsistent Jermey Parnell and seemingly no blocking tight end help on the roster. It’s… not ideal.

Blake Bortles vs. Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney has been clowning on Bortles and this team for two years now and it’s about time that Blake provides a carbon copy of his statement game against the Texans last year (21-for-29 for 326 yards, four touchdowns). The Texans defense has most of their star power back and healthy this year and the offense is absolutely inept at the moment, but this could be a huge moment for Bortles to win back some confidence in himself and from his teammates with a big performance at home.

Final prediction

Don’t ask me how the Jaguars are going to score 17 points because I don’t know. All I know is as long as Deshaun Watson plays the entire game for the Texans, they’re probably going to put up at least 13 points. If this is a must-win game for the Jaguars, they must find their way to at least 17 points some way, some how. Maybe a turnover? Pick six? Anyone want to step up and take back some momentum that’s leaking like a deflating balloon? Do something, guys. Get right.

Half of the games in this series history have been decided by seven or less points. This will probably be another one.

I think the Jaguars win 17-13.