Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange
Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars square off with the Houston Texans on Sunday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars square off with the Houston Texans on Sunday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo




KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, EverBank Field. TV: FOX, Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: 32nd regular-season meeting. Texans lead series, 19-12. Houston had won the last six meetings over the past three years before the Jaguars ended the streak with a 29-7 win in the season opener on Sept. 10. Jacksonville had not won dating to Dec. 5, 2013, when it posted a 27-20 win in Jacksonville. The Jaguars won both games that year (beating Texans twice in a 12-day span) to end another five-game Texans winning streak.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Houston has struggled to stop the pass, ranking 26th in the league, while Jaguars QB Blake Bortles has had a hot hand in the last two games, posting passer ratings of 119.8 and 123.7. It isn't likely the Jaguars will pull back with Bortles having completed 71 percent for 577 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions the last two weeks.


In addition, Bortles has been sacked only once in the last two games. He'll have the benefit of having the offensive line intact for a second straight week. Rookie receivers Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook have been the two top receivers and are playing like veterans instead of first-year players.

With the Texans having lost their two best pass rushers (J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus) for the season, Bortles should have the time to find open receivers and post some big numbers.

The Jaguars' running game also looked sharp last week vs. Seattle, with the offensive line returning to its original look of the first four weeks, the first time since Week 4. Leonard Fournette also appeared healthy with a 101-yard effort although he did not practice Wednesday with a quadriceps injury.

Offensively, the Texans plan to use maximum protection blocking schemes and plenty of quick games to counteract a devastating Jaguars defense. They will try to feed the football to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.


--Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Jaguars CBs A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. Hopkins leads the NFL with 11 touchdown catches, tying his franchise record set in 2015. Bouye and Ramsey are fast, aggressive and not shy about trash-talking. They relish this kind of matchup. Last week, Ramsey was matched up with Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin for much of the game. The one play that Ramsey wasn't on Baldwin, the Seattle receiver grabbed a 43-yard reception for a touchdown. When Ramsey was on him, he had two catches in five throws for 35 yards. Hopkins is easily the Texans' No. 1 offensive threat.


--Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette vs. Texans OLB Jadeveon Clowney. Fournette is the Jaguars' leading rusher and a threat as a receiver (10 catches in the last three games). He's averaging 103.3 yards per game running and receiving. That puts pressure on Clowney, who will be glued to Fournette for either runs or passes. Clowney leads the team with 20 tackles for loss (second most in the NFL) and has nine sacks.



--Out: LB Jelani Jenkins (concussion), T Kendall Lamm (concussion), WR Braxton Miller (concussion), QB Tom Savage (concussion)

--Questionable: LB Jadeveon Clowney (knee, illness), WR DeAndre Hopkins (toe), TE MyCole Pruitt (calf)


--Out: WR Allen Hurns (ankle), WR Larry Pinkard (concussion)

--Questionable: RB Leonard Fournette (quadriceps)

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Jaguars WR Dede Westbrook. It's hard to imagine how good Westbrook's numbers might have been this year had he played the entire season. Since he came off injured reserve in Week 11 against Cincinnati, Westbrook has been the Jaguars' most efficient receiver. He has caught a team-high 20 passes for 235 yards in the last four games, better figures than either Marqise Lee (18-209) or Keelan Cole (11-209), who have played in every game this year. He has become Bortles' No. 1 target, as his 33 targets lead both Lee (27) and Cole (19) in the last four games.


FAST FACTS: Texans RB Lamar Miller has surpassed 80 scrimmage yards in four of the past five games against Jacksonville. ... WR DeAndre Hopkins is the only player in franchise history with 10 TD catches in multiple seasons. In the past two games at Jacksonville, he had 196 receiving yards and two TDs. ... CB Kareem Jackson had a 42-yard INT-TD in the last road meeting. ... Jaguars QB Blake Bortles has 1,613 passing yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions in the last six games vs. the division. ... Rookie RB Leonard Fournette had 124 scrimmage yards (100 rushing) and a TD in his first game against with Texans. He needs 77 rushing yards to become the second rookie in franchise history with 1,000 (Fred Taylor, 1,223 in 1998). ... Jaguars WR Marqise Lee has TD catches in three of the past four games at home. ... Jaguars CB A.J. Bouye had two interceptions last week and is tied for the NFL lead with a career-high six. ... Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey aims for the third game in a row with an interception. ... Jaguars DE Calais Campbell leads the AFC with a career-high and franchise-record 12.5 sacks. He had a career-high four sacks in the last game vs. Houston.


PREDICTION: Jacksonville can clinch its first playoff berth since 2007 with a victory. The two-time defending AFC South champs won't make it easy, but the Jaguars will keep their eye on the prize.

OUR PICK: Jaguars, 28-16.

--Ellen Port

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