Question 1: C.J. Stroud is tied for fifth in MVP odds (+1800 on DraftKings Sportsbook) just 10 games into his NFL career. What are his biggest strengths and weaknesses at this point, and how many quarterbacks would you take over him right now?
I think Stroud’s MVP case took a little bit of a beating this past week, but maybe people won’t notice the three picks since he won. As to the meat of your question, he has shown so far that he is a quick learner and has excellent accuracy. There are deficiencies, but I guess if you paid attention to any quarterback you’d see them too. He isn’t as athletic as some other guys and probably has taken a few sacks too many, but he never seems to get rattled. Let’s assume money is no object. I think you’d be a fool not to take Mahomes. Joe Burrow is pretty hard to turn down too. I like Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts, and Josh Allen as well. The tough thing is separating a quarterback from his system. I happen to think Herbert and Allen would be better in other systems. Burrow and Hurts would likely be worse in other systems. I could see arguments for Tua, maybe Dak in a different system. So, I see him as a top 10 guy easily. That’s without knowing how anyone else would do in this system. Look at what Brock Purdy does in SF. Nobody would pick him as their guy physically but it is hard to argue with the production.
Q2: What are fans’ expectations for this season now that we’re halfway through? Is the greater Houston area just happy to be along for the ride, or are Texans faithful already thinking about a potential playoff run?
I think there is hope. That is something we haven’t had since probably 2018. Even in 2019 I think everyone knew that Watson-O’Brien had tun its course. The fans hope an AFC South title is possible. Win on Sunday and it is even for the last six games. Expectation is more an Astros thing. If you think of teams like the Chiefs, they have expectations. The Eagles and their fans might be there. Some others are in the hope category, but most fans are in that shaky ground where they just can’t afford to expect much. Houston football has been a half century of pain. It gets hard to erase that sometimes, but this team is beginning to do it.
Q3: Houston ranks 28th in rushing success rate on the season (per rbsdm.com), albeit Devin Singletary has registered consecutive 100-yard games. What are your expectations for that unit against Jacksonville’s top-ranked run defense?
My hope is that Bobby Slowik has finally realized that they need to enforce their will with the pass and then let the run game play off of that. He has done that the past two weeks for the most part, but there are times when he starts turtling. People will focus on Stroud’s picks, but there were two key third/fourth down plays where they handed off to Andrew Beck and Mike Boone. Haven’t heard of them? Don’t worry, most Texans fans couldn’t pick them out of a lineup either prior to this season. I think you almost have to treat this like the old-fashioned run and shoot days when you counted guys in the box. If you had a hat for every guy then you ran the ball. If you didn’t then you pass. I expect them to struggle more on the ground. The Bengals and Cards are not good run defenses. The Jags are.
Q4: DeMeco Ryans would be my shoo-in vote for Coach of the Year if the Texans win on Sunday to grab the division lead. What have you seen from his side of the ball so far that you like, and is the Texans defense well-equipped to take advantage of the Jaguars’ porous interior O-line?
The Texans picked up a few key free agents but none of them are what you would call game changers. Sheldon Rankins is a solid tackle, but not spectacular. Jimmie Ward has been good when healthy but he has missed about half the games. The key has been that every existing player on this defense has played better. Christian Harris was the worst linebacker in football last year according to PFF. He is now in the average range. Jalen Pitre, Steven Nelson, and Derek Stingley have made a similar jump. Jonathan Greenard isn’t going to make anyone forget Bruce Smith, but he has been better than he has ever been. Brian Cashman has gone from a backup and special teams guy to a top 10 linebacker in the NFL. There may not be a true Pro Bowl guy in the group, but all of the players are playing solid football and that has given them the ability to live through some injuries that would have crippled them in the past.
In terms of the interior of the offensive line, that might actually be the weakness of our defense. So, the Jags might make it through okay. If they feel the need to double Maliek Collins or Sheldon Rankins and it could be a long day on the outside. Will Anderson and Greenard are the strength of this pass rush. If they get one-on-one opportunities they could get to Trevor Lawrence.
Q5: The Jaguars are a narrow 1.5-point favorite. Which side of the spread do you like, and are there any game/player props that stand out?
This is essentially a pick em’ game. Who is really picking the Jags to win by just one point? I suppose it is mathematically possible, but I think picking a winner is really what we are doing. I will just say this: if you are relying on me for betting advice I’d hand over the checkbook to your spouse. The Texans play better at home and the Jags have won only one game against the Texans since the 2017 season. Then again, that one win was at Houston last year. However, I’ll still go with the Texans for those reasons, but this will be a really close and tough game. You mentioned the tough Jags run defense, so look for Stroud to throw more and Singletary to run less. So, over on Stroud and under on Singletary. Of course, I say that and it probably goes the opposite way. If I were an avid gambler I would be picking another game to take advantage of.
Thanks again to Scott for taking the time to answer our questions!
What are your thoughts on this week’s matchup, Jaguars fans? Let us know in the comments!