Jan 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) is tackled by Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) and defensive tackle Christian Covington (95) during the second half at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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Texans vs. Jaguars – It speaks volumes when the 5-3 division leader plays the 2-6 division cellar dweller and the line opens at “Pick-em”. Worse yet, as the money came in the line moved as high as Jaguars – 3. That’s right. The division leading Texans are a 3 point dog. The number is 42.
First, it shows that the Texans are lightly regarded. If there was any confidence in the Texans they would be favored, even on the road, playing a 2-win Jaguars team.
Granted the Texans are 0-3 on the road, but opinions vary on whether it was the road venue or the opponent quality that caused the three road blowouts. Obviously, until the Texans win on the road the betting line is significantly skewed by where the game is played.
Another reason the Jags are favored is that the Jaguars have badly underperformed this season. After the draft and free agency the Jaguars were widely regarded as one of the NFL’s most improved teams. Some pundits picked them to win the AFC South. The thinking is that the talent is there, but it just hasn’t meshed. Bettors obviously think this is the game when the talent comes together.
On the flip side Texans fans hope these are the same old Jaguars, talented underperformers. Those same fans hope this will be a break-out game for the Texans offense. There are no guarantees.
Jan 3, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson (25) intercepts a ball and runs fo a touchdown in front of Jacksonville Jaguars running back Jonas Gray (34) during the second half at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
No doubt the road losses were due primarily to the opponent quality. But what part did competing on the road play?
In my opinion, the road per se was not that big a factor in the Texans losses, but the particular stadiums and home crowds were. Through the years two of the toughest places to play are Foxboro and Denver. The new Minnesota glass palace’s design accentuates the home field advantage, and rabid Vikings fans screaming for a then undefeated team were deafening.
However, playing in Jacksonville is a different deal. The stadium doesn’t magnify sound, the fans that show-up aren’t that enthused and even the die-hard fans, after years of team failure and a 2-6 start, discourage easily. If the Texans get off to a good start they will quickly neutralize any home field advantage.
Talent wise there is not much of an advantage to either team. Both quarterbacks entered the season with high hopes, but each struggled in the first half. Each team’s receivers are highly touted, but the receivers struggled right along with their quarterbacks.
Both teams play good pass defense, and both struggle against the run. To me the difference will be that the Texans have more talented running backs than do the Jaguars. I expect the Texans running game to do damage on its own and open things up for Brock Osweiler and the receivers.
At this point the Jaguars have little to gain and the Texans have everything to lose. Take the points and the over. Texans win 24-21. (In the second half predictions I predicted 24-17, but that was before A. J. Bouye’s ankle injury.)