JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2020 season, 10 Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Bucky Brooks, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – will break down the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They control the line of scrimmage and run rookie running back James Robinson at least 20 times against the NFL's worst rushing defense. During the Texans' four-game season-opening losing streak, their opponents' game plan has been the same: run the ball and keep quarterback Deshaun Watson on the sideline. This is the second consecutive week the Jaguars have faced the NFL's worst rushing defense. In last week's loss to Cincinnati, they abandoned the run too soon.
The Texans will win if: Watson picks apart the Jaguars' secondary. Jaguars rookie cornerback CJ Henderson will be a game-time decision and starting nickelback DJ Hayden (hamstring) is out. There's a lot of youth and inexperience in Jacksonville's contain. If Watson can get outside the pocket, he will become extra dangerous on both the ground and in the air.
As Ballou sees it: Houston has won four consecutive games against the Jaguars and will be emotionally charged after Monday's firing of head coach Bill O'Brien. This will be the third consecutive week the Jaguars will play a team seeking its first victory. The Jaguars had 14 players on this week's injury report. With the Jacksonville secondary depleted, Houston will get its first victory of the season.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They can get a lead and rely on Robinson. He is one of the team's best offensive players; he needs carries. Houston is reeling, having just fired its coach. The Jaguars must strike fast, get a lead and hand the ball to Robinson. And make Watson beat them from the pocket.
The Texans will win if: They get Watson going out of the pocket. He has really hurt the Jags like that in the past. They also need some confidence -- to find a way to rally behind Interim Head Coach Romeo Crennel. And make Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II uncomfortable in the pocket.
As Frangie sees it: This is a tough one to call – two teams needing an injection of confidence and a fourth-quarter game that could go either way.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if: They can be more efficient on third down like they were in Week 1 versus the Colts. Staying on the field leads to more plays, production and points – and right now, this team is going to have to score more points to win with a defense that is struggling.
The Texans will win if: They can find an effective running game to take some of the pressure off Watson. Offensive balance would be difficult to stop as the Jaguars may be coming into this game a bit banged up and less than full strength.
As Lageman sees it: This will be a wildcard type of game not knowing the effect of O'Brien's firing on the Texans' players. Offensively, Houston hasn't run effectively, scored many points or found a viable replacement for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Defensively, the Texans can't stop the run and Robinson could have a big day if the Jaguars can contain defensive end J.J. Watt.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: Watson runs for fewer than 20 yards. The Jags have not done well against mobile quarterbacks in the past and Watson can beat you with both his arm and legs. Watson has been a little off in 2020, so if he must rely just on the arm, I think the Jags could make a play or two to change the game.
The Texans will win if: They hold the Jaguars under 30. This might be the formula to win for any team right now in the NFL, but it's especially true for the Jaguars the way their defense has been giving up points. Houston is allowing more points than the Jaguars, so this game might be a shootout.
As Martineau sees it: I started feeling good about the Jaguars stealing this game, but the injury report concerns me more than normal. The Jaguars are not deep and have question marks regarding health. I think the O'Brien firing bump will be real for the Texans. This could be an exhale game for Houston, which might just be bad timing for the Jaguars. Houston will win, 34-26.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: The defense plays better against the run than it did last week in Cincinnati. There's plenty of evidence to suggest the Jaguars' offense can score enough to win games if the defense can keep opponents in the low 20s. There hasn't much evidence in recent weeks to suggest it can.
The Texans will win if: Watson is Watson. He has made a habit in recent seasons of frustrating the Jaguars' defense with his escapability in the pocket. The Jaguars' pass rush already is struggling to create pressure. Watson's ability to extend plays is a particularly concerning matchup.
As Oehser sees it: The defense must prove it can play well enough to win. It hasn't done so in the last three weeks. Until it does, it's hard to pick the Jaguars to win.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: They can stick to their formula. This team isn't built for shootouts and their quarterback is 0-3 in 2020 when forced to throw 40 times or more. They need to keep it close and run so Minshew can set up play action and create another possession or two with takeaways and short fields.
The Texans will win if: Watson can take advantage of an inexperienced secondary. Thankfully for the Jaguars, Hopkins is in Arizona but wide receivers Will Fuller and Randall Cobb can make life difficult on Jaguars cornerback Tre Herndon and CJ Henderson or Chris Claybrooks. Watson's ability to extend plays will put a lot of pressure on a defense that has struggled to reach the quarterback in 2020.
As I see it: The Jaguars' defense will be the deciding factor. The Jaguars must keep it close, which it hasn't done in recent weeks. The Dolphins scored 31 with a quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick) who never has been elite, and the Bengals scored 33 with a quarterback (rookie Joe Burrow) who is on his way but isn't there yet. I see the Texans getting their first victory of the season.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if: They can force a couple turnovers on defense or make a game-turning play on special teams. Punch out a fumble, tip a ball at the line, return a kick/punt – something above the Xs and Os to give the offense an extra couple possessions would be really helpful right now.
The Texans will win if: They can force the Jaguars' offense and Minshew into long down-and-distance situations. If the Jaguars have a balanced attack, they can be effective. If they're behind the sticks with sacks or penalties, then it gets predictable.
As Shadrick sees it: Turmoil in Houston? The Texans sacked O'Brien Monday, but this could be a circle-the-wagons game for them around Crennel. The Jaguars' offense – when all pieces are available – can keep this team in games with a strong offensive line and Minshew dealing it to the running back and playmaking receivers. But the way the defense is playing, they must score 30 a game. The Jaguars' defense must figure out how to manage a full 60 minutes with young, developing players if some of the injured front-line players are unavailable. They must develop quick, or the slide will continue – especially against the gauntlet of star quarterbacks coming up in the next six games: Watson, Matt Stafford, Justin Herbert, Watson, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger…
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if: They continue to use Robinson as a weapon. The Texans have the worst run defense in the league. The Jaguars need to use Robinson to set up the passing attack to try and get a lead before halftime. The Jaguars must Robinson early, and run him often.
The Texans will win if: They force Minshew to make mistakes. Minshew has thrown four interceptions this season. The Texans could be playing with added momentum for a new head coach. If you hand them the ball with a turnover, I am afraid you won't get it back very much.
As Sullivan sees it: This game scares me because the Texans will not think they are out of it. The Jaguars will have to dig deep and go back to Week One with an "us-against-the-world" mentality to beat a team with added drive. To me, it all boils down to Minshew; if he has a good game, the Jaguars will win.