Houston Texans Grind Out Jacksonville Jaguars
Written by Greg Smith – 2011-12 NFL Prediction Record (12-3)
This Sunday features a key AFC South matchup between two NFL teams headed in opposite directions. Somewhat surprising that NFL odds makers have only separated them by a single field goal but this can represent a good opportunity for NFL bettors. The Jacksonville Jaguars continued their downward spiral after suffering a heartbreaking loss against the Cleveland Browns. With their 3-7 record we have to think that many Jaguars are starting to look forward to the end of this season and perhaps another chance next year. However, the Jaguars still have the chance to play the spoiler role against their remaining opponents, starting with the Houston Texans on Sunday. The Texans are enjoying a franchise record-setting season at 7-3 but have recently lost the QB (Matt Schaub) that was part of getting them to this point. In place of Schaub the Texans will be looking to former Arizona Cardinals QB Matt Leinart to guide them to a strong playoff position.
The problem with trying to predict Leinart (and to some degree the Texans) is that there’s very limited relevant information on Leinart, since he hasn’t thrown a pass in two years with the Texans. We know that Leinart struggled in Arizona but it’s not as if the Cardinals in general were a top rate team. In broad terms many experts feel that Leinart has a similar style to Schaub and won the Heisman trophy in 2004 and was a 1st round pick in 2006, so the skill set was top notch at one point. In terms of a comparison with Jacksonville QB Blaine Gabbert I would say it’s reasonable to call them roughly equal at this point. What we do know about the Texans team in general is that they have been able to successfully adjust their play in the past due to injury -Arian Foster and Andre Johnson being good examples. We also know that the Houston offense ranks 2nd in rushing yards per game, 15th in passing yards, 7th in total yards per game and 5th in total points scored per game. Less noticeable statistically is the way that the Texans offensive line has been playing successfully this season, both protecting their QB and opening up running lanes for players such as Arian Foster and Ben Tate. It’s important to emphasize the running game for Houston, since Foster has been above 100 yards rushing and/or receiving in six of seven games and was named AFC offensive player of the month for October. Not far behind is the Texans Ben Tate, ranking 10th in rushing at 686 yards for the season, 4th in yards per carry and 2nd in runs of 10+ yards at 27. Simply put, I believe the Texans will use their superior running game and screen passes to continue their success in time of possession (ranked 1st) and grind down the Jaguars.
Not to say this task is a given, since the Jaguars do possess a very good defence that ranks 3rd in total yards per game allowed, 4th in pass yards allowed per game, 15th in rushing yards per game and 5th in total points per game. However, as the game against the Cleveland Browns illustrated, the Jaguars offence has absolutely sputtered this season. Jacksonville ranks 32nd in total yards per game offensively, 32nd in passing yards per game, 12th in rushing yards per game and 31st in total points scored. Even when the Jaguars are put in a good position to win games with their offence, they make poor decisions and key mistakes that allow victory to slip away. While the Jaguars defence will likely do their part against the Texans, it is the offense that will be outmatched against the Houston defence that is ranked 1st in total yards allowed per game, 2ndin passing yards allowed, 4th in rushing yards and 2nd in total points allowed per game. As far as injuries are concerned, the Texans are really only dealing with wide receiver Andre Johnson (probable) while the Jaguars will likely be missing a number of players on both sides of the ball. My general thinking is that the Texans will wisely use their superior offensive line, rushing game and screen passes to steadily gain points and keep the time of possession in their hands (which they’ve done all season). This will limit the amount of pressure on QB Leinart while allowing the Texans to continue their success this season. Remember, we’re only talking about the Texans covering a field goal spread which seems highly realistic against a struggling Jacksonville squad, even if they are in front of their home crowd.
Prediction: Houston Texans -3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars (5Dimes.com)
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