Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7, 9-6 ATS) at Houston Texans (5-10, 4-10-1 ATS) NFL Week 17
Sunday January 2nd, 4:15PM Eastern Reliant Stadium Houston, Texas
By Jay Horne, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Jax -1/HOU +1
Over/Under Total: 49.5
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For the 2nd straight week in a row, the Jacksonville Jaguars wasted a golden opportunity to take control of their playoff destiny. Two weeks ago, the Jaguars failed to stop Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in a game that could have nearly locked up the AFC South. Then last week the Jaguars rallied late in the 4th quarter to tie the Redskins and force the game in overtime. Jacksonville had captured all the momentum and was even fortunate enough to get the ball first in overtime.
However, QB David Garrard threw an interception inside the Jaguars own 20 yard line which setup a Washington Redskins game winning field goal to beat the Jaguars 20-17. After dropping their 2nd straight loss, the Jaguars now need a lot of help to earn that seemingly elusive last playoff spot in the AFC. Jacksonville not only needs Indianapolis to lose this Sunday, but they will also have to deal with the Houston Texans in a must win situation on the road this Sunday at Reliant Stadium.
This will be the 2nd meeting between both teams this season as the Jaguars edged out the Texans earlier this season 31-24. Luckily for Jacksonville, Houston has struggled severely in recent weeks dropping 4 straight and 8 of their last 9 games SU. However, Houston is a team that is very familiar with Jacksonville as is the case often with these inner-division match-ups. Also, Houston holds one of the best offenses in the NFL at moving the football ranking 5th and averaging 379 yards per game. If the Texans get the ball moving, they could make it difficult for a Jaguars team that is not exactly explosive on the offensive side of the football.
The Houston offense is loaded with talent at the skill positions. QB Matt Schaub has had a fairly solid year completing 63% passing for 4,117 yards with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Despite battling a banged up elbow, Schaub has put together 4 straight games of more than 300 yards passing. WR Andre Johnson is 4th in the NFL in receiving yards totaling 1,217 receiving yards with 8 touchdowns on the season. Johnson missed last week’s loss to Denver with a sprained ankle and his status this week against Jacksonville is still listed as questionable. The Texans are much more dynamic offense with Johnson as the go to guy in the passing game so his presence will be crucial.
Outside of the passing attack, the Texans also have some strong balance with running back Arian Foster. Foster leads the NFL in rushing in just his 2nd season in the league with 1,436 yards and 14 touchdowns. Foster rushed for 91 yards on just 19 carries in last week’s 24-23 loss to Denver and he has consistently posted solid numbers on the ground this year. Also, the Jaguars defense has allowed 113 yards per game on the ground this season. Therefore, Foster will have a chance to take control of the ground attack and try to establish some ball control in effort to keep the struggling Houston defense off the field.
The Texans defense has been the teams’ Achilles Heel this season. Houston has given up 380 yards per game this season which is the 4th highest total in the NFL. The Texans offense has given them chances to win this season, but the defense has failed to hold off offenses late in games which is a big reason Houston has suffered so many close defeats. The Jaguars will attack that Houston defense primarily on the ground behind running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew is the heart and soul of the Jacksonville offense. On the season, Jones-Drew has posted 1,324 yards to rank 4th individually in the NFL. Despite having a rather bad quarterback; Jones-Drew has carried the offense this season averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
Speaking of that bad quarterback, David Garrard proved yet again last week while he has some many critics that claim he is not worthy to start in the NFL. Garrard threw 2 picks last week which ended up costing Jacksonville the game pushing his interceptions total to 15 on the season. At times Garrard has thrown the ball well completing 65% passing with 23 touchdowns, but he has also made major mistakes in critical situations that has really left a bad taste in the mouths of most of the Jacksonville faithful.
WR Mike Thomas leads the team in receiving with just over 800 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tight end Marcedes Lewis has contributed well also with over 600 yards receiving and 9 scores. Both of those guys would likely excel in better pass oriented offenses. In fact, with a bit more consistent play from Garrard the Jaguars currently could be a much better passing offense. Whether or not Garrard can get things together remains undetermined? One thing that is certain is that Garrard’s time to prove himself in Jacksonville could come to a close if the Jaguars fail to capitalize on another big opportunity this Sunday.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Not only is Garrard’s future in Jacksonville possibly on the line, but also Coach Jack Del Rio’s future is as well considering the fact that the Jaguars have ended the season poorly so often during his tenure. I do not believe any of those circumstances will lead to any positive showing here by the Jaguars. I believe that Houston’s offense will be able to overcome both fairly bad defenses and earn the victory. It’s easy to think that Jacksonville is the only team with anything at stake, but the Texans are just as hungry for a victory. Bet Houston at +1.