JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2018 season, nine Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, 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 TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They get back to the basics. The Jaguars have talked all week about challenging themselves. Whether it's coaching or playing, Jacksonville will have success if it simplifies things defensively and doesn't turn the ball over.
The Texans will win if: They get to Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is back to form after a couple of injury-filled seasons. If he creates pressure against the Jaguars' offensive line, it will be a problem. Jacksonville also has struggled against mobile quarterbacks and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is averaging over 50 yards a game rushing.
As Ballou sees it: Jaguars, 17-16. The Jaguars owned Houston a year ago. Bortles has been better than good in his last six home games, and the Jaguars' defense will make some plays after allowing 40 points last week in Dallas.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if: If they win turnover margin, field position and don't give the Texans multiple short fields. This feels like early last season when the Jaguars needed a dominant defense, good special teams and an offense that didn't hurt the team and made a couple of key plays. I believe the performance we saw from the defense last week was an anomaly – and that it will play great this week, dominating an overmatched offensive line. I won't be surprised if the defense gets three-plus turnovers and scores. That needs to happen, because it will be tough for the offense to move consistently against a good Texans defense.
The Texans will win if: If they get an early lead and force the Jaguars into a pass-happy game plan. The Texans' front four – led by linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and Watt – will be too much for the Jaguars' offensive line if the offense is in third-and-long all day. Offensively, the Texans will need to move the pocket to help protect Watson against a Jaguars pass rush that will be looking to get healthy against a porous offensive line.
As Boselli sees it: The Jaguars will get the much-needed victory – I hope. It will really come down to which offense can hold up against the opposing defense. Both defenses are better than the opposing offense, so turnovers and field position will be a huge factor. I really believe (hope?) that we will see the dominating Jaguars defense to which we have been accustomed – and that it will lead the way to a 17-10 victory.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They can establish some sort of a vertical passing game early. Teams are loading the box – more than ever it seems – and without knowing if the team will have running back Leonard Fournette, I don't expect that to change. But if the Jaguars can soften the eight-man boxes a bit with early downfield success, that would be huge.
The Texans will win if: They stuff the run, which is more likely if the Jags can't throw downfield. The Texans also will benefit from getting Watson out of the pocket much like Dallas did last week with Dak Prescott.
As Frangie sees it: I still believe in the Jaguars and think they will win. The defense will play better than it did last week – much better. But they must find some offense.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if: They protect the ball on offense and get back to playing great defense. The offense is struggling with injuries at left tackle, tight end and running back. These are all key positions for them, making it a tough challenge to return to their foundation of running and using play-action passing as a complement. The defense must get back to the form it had in 2017 by scoring and creating short fields for a wounded offense.
The Texans will win if: They win the turnover battle. The Texans have game-wreckers on defense in Watt and Clowney with a veteran secondary that does a great job mixing and disguising coverages. Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel gives opposing offenses a multitude of looks that can make it very difficult to play mistake-free football. Clowney, Watt, linebacker Whitney Mercilus and inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney can line up anywhere anytime and create havoc.
As Lageman sees it: This is going to be a challenging game; whichever defense plays the best and takes the football away the most will win. Watson is good, young talent but has been sacked often due to his indecision and a struggling offensive line. This could create the right recipe for this Jaguars defense to get back to their old ways. But the Texans' defense could make it difficult for a wounded Jaguars offense to find any rhythm. This is a tough game to call, but if the Jaguars can start fast it will be tough to stop their momentum at home.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: They score the game's first touchdown. It's that simple for the Jaguars now: they must play from ahead and can't trail by more than one score. They haven't proven they can rally. An early field goal will not doom the Jaguars; anything more could extend this slide to three games.
The Texans will win if: If they convert in the red zone. Houston has moved up and down the field but turnovers and inability to finish drives has held the Texans back. Houston is almost last in the NFL in red-zone efficiency. In an expected low-scoring affair, two scores could be enough.
As Martineau sees it: I have been riding the Jaguars' wave for a long time. I'm off the train for this week. The Jaguars must show us they have fixed things, that we can trust this defense to dominate and that we can trust an offense to play ball-control football. I'm taking the trend and the Texans to win a close game, 23-20.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: The offense can find something on which it can rely. It's difficult to know how the Jaguars will score against a dominant Texans defense. If the Jaguars can at least flip field position consistently and produce two touchdowns offensively, the Jaguars could squeeze out enough points – around twenty – to get a much-needed victory.
The Texans will win if: They can keep Sacksonville from returning. The Jaguars' defensive front dominated the Texans last season, and the Texans' offensive line has struggled enough that many expect a big day for the Jaguars' pass rush. If that happens, and if the Jaguars' create points off turnovers, the Jaguars could win by double digits. If not, the Texans have enough offense in wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to give the Jaguars major trouble.
As Oehser sees it: This is a tough task for the Jaguars – perhaps too tough. Both defenses should control the opposing offensive front, and both offenses have struggled recently. But the Texans have a playmaking wide receiver – DeAndre Hopkins – who can take over stretches of games. The Jaguars have nothing on offense that currently inspires confidence. The Jaguars certainly can win this game, but it's difficult to see them as a favorite.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: Points will be at a premium on Sunday with these defenses. The Texans' offensive line can't protect Watson, who has been hit 66 times in six games – and their running game isn't strong enough to carry the load. If the Jaguars can take advantage of that offensive line and create turnovers, their defense will help their undermanned offense against a powerful Texans defense.
The Texans will win if: They can score defensively. The Jaguars didn't score in either of the last two games with the outcome in doubt. That means they didn't score a meaningful touchdown in the last two weeks. It's hard to say if will do so against the Texans. They're down offensive linemen, tight ends and running backs. Who can threaten the Texans or make them adjust? If the Texans can take advantage and help their undermanned offense against the Jaguars defense, they'll win.
3.As I see it: The Texans are one of the NFL's hottest teams with three consecutive victories and a defense that looks it's on its game. Still, they barely beat a bad Bills squad last week. It won't be pretty, but the Jaguars' defense will be the difference. The home team will be in first place in the AFC South Sunday evening.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if: They find offensive consistency early. The Jags moved the ball against Kansas City, but just could not finish in the red zone. They just did not move the ball much in Dallas. They must stay on the field, run the ball, get a sustained drive and get points on the board early.
The Texans will win if: They can force the Jaguars to stand back and throw the ball all day (I could copy and paste this each week). Watt and Clowney are playing well; the Jaguars can't help them play better.
As Shadrick sees it: The Jags need this one to stay on pace with the other two contending division teams, to find some confidence after two tough road losses and to get a home win before heading to London for a big game against the defending Super Bowl Champion Eagles. I'd like to think this team can bounce back from tough circumstances, but this is the toughest test it has faced so far this season.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
The Jaguars will win if: They return to their blueprint. This team succeeds when the defense plays well. End Calais Campbell called the defense's performance last week embarrassing. The Jaguars' defense must play with a new level of intensity and better communication.
The Texans will win if: Their defensive line pressures Bortles into mistakes. Bortles had five turnovers against Kansas City. Head Coach Doug Marrone mentioned this week the first thing this team must fix is turnover ratio. Bortles must play like we saw against New England with no turnovers to relieve pressure from his defense.
As Sullivan sees it: The Jaguars need a victory more than ever. The defense must take the field with last week's game behind them and just play like the talented bunch they are. The offense must play complimentary football to the defense and not turn the ball over. The Jaguars will win. There is too much at stake to lose.