JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2017 season, seven Jaguars experts – Tony Boselli, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton and J.P. Shadrick – will break down the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if:They overcome initial emotion and energy in NRG. Considering the emotion of what the city has been through with Hurricane Harvey – and it being opening weekend – the Texans are going to come out of the tunnel like a rocket ship. The Jaguars must get past the initial emotion and make the game just about what happens on the field. Once that happens, it will be critical to win on early downs to stay in third-and-short and medium. Punting will not be a bad play. Play good defense and special teams. Turn it into a slug fest. Stick to the run even if it isn't working early.
The Texans will win if:They make the Jaguars' offense one-dimensional by taking away the run. They have three excellent pass rushers in J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Jadeveon Clowney. I do not think the Jaguars can protect well enough if they find themselves in a bunch of third-and-long situations. This is where turnovers happen and the game will swing heavily towards the Texans.
As Boselli sees it:Defense is the strength of both teams. Whichever offensive line holds up and establishes the run will win. Turnovers and a big special teams play could decide a close game. I have a feeling the Jaguars get enough from Leonard Fournette and Blake Bortles plays better of the two quarterbacks. Jaguars win a close one, 20-17.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if:They keep it competitive for the first quarter-and-a-half. It will be a very emotional day for the Texans given the difficulties of Hurricane Harvey and the relief efforts led by Houston's J.J. Watt. Jacksonville also needs to stay on the field, to make yards on first down so the Texans can't tee off on second- and third-and-long situations. Hold the ball and survive the early moments.
The Texans will win if: They stop Leonard Fournette and force the Jags to pass off schedule, allowing all those pass rushers to pin their ears back. They will win if Texans quarterback Tom Savage has some success early -- he is not accustomed to being in the spotlight -- and he also needs to gain some confidence.
As Frangie sees it: This is tough opener for the Jaguars given circumstances, venue, etc. But the defense could match up well with a Houston offense that could struggle early on. This could be a close game decided in the fourth quarter.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst
The Jaguars will win if: The offensive plan they envisioned in the offseason comes to fruition. The ability to run and take pressure off the passing game is critical with a defense such as the Texans. Special teams must create field position opportunities not only for the offense, but also for a defense that has a secondary with little experience playing together.
The Texans will win if:Their defense dictates the tempo and creates turnovers. Watt looks back to his NFL Defensive MVP form in his limited preseason snaps. Head Coach Bill O'Brien will unveil an old-school approach to his offense by sticking to his running game with an unproven quarterback in Savage.
As Lageman sees it: This will be a low-scoring affair, taking us back to the days of old in the NFL when passing was out of necessity. It will be an emotional day in Houston with all that has occurred from Hurricane Harvey. Whichever of the two young kickers has the better day for their team … that team will prevail. Let's go, Jason Myers.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if:The defense can be as dominant as the Jaguars think it can be and creates a game-changing turnover or two – and if they can run the football with a little success and not abandon that run. If Bortles throws it under 25 times, that means the Jags are having success on the ground and eliminating turnovers; that would be a formula to victory.
The Texans will win if: Their defense can dominate the Jags' front. If Houston wins in the trenches, rookie left tackle Cam Robinson would be in for a long day and Fournette may never get going. Houston will win if Savage delivers two scoring drives against this Jags defense. The Texans, like the Jags, will rely on their defense to dominate field position and make a big play or two with a turnover.
As Martineau sees it:The emotion of this game is the great intangible. I had a strange feeling all August the Jags would go into Houston and surprise the Texans. That is less likely with the emotion of Houston following Hurricane Harvey – and specifically Watt's efforts off the field. This is a tough task regardless for the Jags, but especially given the situation. If the Jags win, I think it would be one of their most impressive regular-season victories of the last decade.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: Fournette rushes for more than 100 yards and a touchdown, and Bortles throws one interception or less. Fournette has big-play ability, and a couple of runs of more than 20 yards could dramatically alter momentum. Bortles must play smart and poised against a fierce Texans rush.
The Texans will win if: Their defense forces a sack/fumble or gets a pick-six. There has been constant emphasis on Bortles protecting the ball and playing smart. A gift touchdown for the Texans because of a Bortles error could be disastrous and deflating.
As Oehser sees it:This is a brutally tough matchup because the Jaguars' offensive line struggled in the preseason and now must face one of the NFL's best pass rushes. It's hard to pick the Jaguars to win, and they almost certainly need a mammoth day from Fournette – and one of Bortles' more error-free games – to pull the upset.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if:They convert on third down. A year ago the Jaguars led Houston, 20-8, in the fourth quarter but couldn't finish. Had they gained a critical first down somewhere in the second half they might have been able to hold the Texans off, but from the middle of the second quarter until the end of the game they had just two first downs and 65 yards of offense. Convert on third down and keep moving the chains.
The Texans will win if:They shut down the Jaguars running game. The Jaguars want to run the ball and keep Bortles from having to win the game against the Texans' fierce pass rush. If the Texans can shut down Fournette and Chris Ivory, they know they can shut down Bortles.
As Sexton sees it: This is going to be a very, very low scoring game. The Texans' offense is 180 degrees opposite their defense. They're not going to put up big numbers against this Jaguars defense. It could be a 10-7 game and the team that doesn't turn it over in critical situations or the team that scores on defense or special teams will end up 1-0.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com reporter/editor
The Jaguars will win if:They win the turnover battle and run for 150-plus yards. Controlling the clock and playing in the Texans' end of the field most of the day will be crucial for the Jaguars in a game that could turn into a ground-and-pound game on each side. Points could be scarce. Get momentum in the run game early and avoid sure passing situations – and a takeaway or two on defense would not hurt.
The Texans will win if:They get the pass rush involved and make impact plays. The Texans' defense has a history of sacks in key situations, takeaways and defensive touchdowns. If they're standing over a sacked quarterback all day, that is a long day for the Jaguars.
As Shadrick sees it:This will easily be the most hostile road environment the Jaguars see in 2017, and that was before the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts of Watt and the Texans' organization. Emotions will be sky-high. Early adversity will come early in some form; overcome it, and the game could be decided late. Don't overcome it, and the game could be over as quickly as it starts.