When the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) hosted the Houston Texans (8-1) earlier in the season, they received a fairly thorough drubbing.
This week, when they head to the Texan s’ Reliant Stadium for the second leg of their AFC South divisional rivalry, there is none of that early season hope. It is now clearly a story of two teams heading in different directions.
The Texans will be looking to secure the first seed in the AFC for the playoffs. They are currently holding first place in the conference, with the Baltimore Ravens chasing. Meanwhile the Jaguars are quickly falling into the lead for the first overall pick in the draft. Currently Jacksonville and the Kansas City Chiefs are tied for last in the league and have a nose in front of the rest of the league in the race for worst.
Although the Jaguars gave the Green Bay Packers a rough time three weeks ago, they are still on a six game losing streak. Parity in the league and “any given Sunday” aside, the outcome of this game is not really in doubt. The Texans are 15-16 point favourites. While Jacksonville may surprise the odds setters and prevent them from covering the spread, the result is almost certainly to be a win for the Texans.
That being the case, casual fans may wonder why they should tune in. Quarterback, Blaine Gabbert is playing for his future career while nursing a shoulder injury. Head coach, Mike Mularkey did not draft the young player out of Missouri. In two years, his play has varied from downright awful to less than stellar. He has had a few bright moments but if the Jaguars have a high pick next year, the offensive minded Mularkey may choose to take a QB more to his liking.
For this game, Gabbert will have to content with the Texans’ fearsome front seven once again. Defensive end JJ Watt has fallen off his player-of-the-year like pace from the start of the season but still remains a premier pass rusher, run defender and, of course, is excellent at batting the ball out of the air.
With running back, Rashad Jennings still in for the injured Maurice Jones-Drew, the Texans’ front seven, which has been slightly worse against the run than the pass, should have a fairly successful time of shutting down Jacksonville.
Meanwhile when the Texans offense takes the field, look to see if the worst defence in the league, when it comes to rushing the passer, can apply pressure to quarterback, Matt Schaub while fighting through the Texans’ tough offensive line. Tight end, Owen Daniels is slated to return after not being able to play in Chicago. If so he’ll provide an excellent dual boost to Houston’s blocking and passing. The underrated veteran is one of the better all-round tight ends in the league, capable of taking on pass rushers and catching the ball deep downfield.
Unsurprisingly few people outside of the Houston and Jacksonville home markets will see the game on regular TV. For those on the Texas Gulf Coast and in northern Florida and south-eastern Georgia, the game will be shown on CBS at 1 PM EST.