It wasn’t to long ago that the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars face-off against each other, with the Jaguars coming out victorious. Now it’s time for the re-match as the Texans travel to Jacksonville to face-off against the Jaguars for the Thursday Night Football match-up.
Now most would automatically assume that this will be a boring game. However, I wouldn’t be so sure, both teams are fighting for what little pride they have left and I would like to think the Texans want some form of pay-back after losing to Jacksonville on their home field. Despite both teams struggles this season, there is still no doubt that both the Texans and Jaguars are capable of winning this game but only if they follow certain steps.
Texans Steps to Victory
For the Texans to win this game, it all starts with running the ball early and often. Quarterback Case Keenum has played well for the Texans but throwing the ball 70% of the time is not Texans football. They must run the ball consistently in this game to have success. To many times this season, the Texans have abandon the run to early and put all the pressure on Keenum to lead them. When in reality that’s not necessary, running back Ben Tate is more than capable of carrying the load for the Texans. Plus the Jaguars are 29th in the NFL allowing their opponents to rush 130 yards a game. So I encourage the Texans to run the ball which will hopefully take some pressure off of Keenum, open up some passing opportunities and help with converting on third downs.
Now that doesn’t take Keenum off the hook, he must still perform well in this game for the Texans to have success. While the Jaguars don’t have an elite defense, the Texans can’t afford to not protect Keenum in this game but Keenum must also do a better job with his pre-snap reads. If he is able to do that, then the passing game is already in good shape. Nonetheless, the main thing Keenum must do is take what the defense gives him, not turn the ball over and spread the ball around and the receivers must step up and play their part as well, they can’t afford any drop passes.
Defensively, I encourage the Texans to contain the run game of the Jaguars. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew keeps the Jaguars offense alive in mostly all of their games, by containing him they force quarterback Chad Henne to beat them through the air. I wouldn’t be surprise if they decide to stack box in this game which would be fine strategy. However, if they do that, they must contain the run and the secondary must limit the big play through the air.
Jaguars Steps to Victory
Offensively, the Jaguars must run the ball because that’s when they play their best football. Think about, the Jaguars are ranked last in the NFL in rushing yards only averaging 70 rushing yards a game but last week the Jaguars were able to run the ball effectively all game, racking up 112 yards on the ground. They must do that again going into this game. Running the ball helps the Jaguars to move the chains effectively and pass the ball better. Jaguars would be smart to use Maurice Jones-Drew but they should also use Jordan Todman to help carry the load. However, the offensive line must do a better job of opening holes for Jones-Drew and Todman and giving Quarterback Chad Henne time in the pocket.
Which leads me to Henne, who must also perform better in this game but for him to perform better, he will need his receivers to step up as well. Last week, wide receiver Ace Sanders made his presence known and I hope to see him do the same thing in this game. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch did a good job of game planning and getting Sanders in space and he needs to continue drawing up plays for him. Mainly because he has the potential to be a nice target and weapon for Henne with his speed. Henne must also make a point to get the ball out of his hands quickly in this game just like he did last time he faced the Texans. If he is able to do that, receive some decent protection and get some help from the run game, the Jaguars have a chance.
Defensively, the Jaguars must make the Texans one-dimensional and force quarterback Case Keenum to beat them. Slowing down the run won’t be easy since the defense is struggling but they are still capable of slowing down the Texans run game. It all starts with the defensive line controlling the line of scrimmage which will open up holes for the linebackers to make plays in the backfield. However, if the Jaguars front seven is able to contain the run, the secondary must play their part. Believe it or not, the secondary’s success all starts with the defensive line. I mentioned earlier that the Texans haven’t done the best job of protecting Keenum or any quarterback this season and since Keenum is a rookie, he doesn’t read defenses well yet. That being said, the Jaguars would be smart to pressure Keenum in this game. Pressuring him forces him to make tough decisions and seeing that he is rookie he will probably force a pass or two which is what they want. However, the secondary must play their part as well, whether the defensive line is able to establish pressure or not. More than anything, they need to bend but not break. Last week they allowed Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon to get going and you don’t want to allow that with the Texans.
I honestly expect this game to come down to two things. The first being who ever wins the turnover battle should win the game. The second being who struggles the most in the second half. When it comes to the turnovers, both teams have had their struggles this season but neither can afford for them continue. However, when it comes to the second half struggles it gets interesting. The Texans have cost themselves plenty of games this season by not performing well in the second half, while the Jaguars have won themselves a couple of games by not giving up in the second half. With that being said, I am predicting the Jaguars win this game at home, mainly because Jaguars have yet to win at home and I’m sure they would love to get a good home win for the fans. Plus I don’t trust the Texans to finish because they have struggled to do so all season.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com