JACKSONVILLE – Each Saturday during the 2021 season, 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.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
- The Jaguars will win if: They can run effectively. The Jaguars made a substantial commitment to the running game and rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence during free agency last spring. They franchised left tackle Cam Robinson to guarantee a stable line, added Chris Manhertz in free agency to give them the best blocking tight end in football and brought on veteran running back Carlos Hyde to pound the ball for four quarters without wearing down running back James Robinson. The Texans have outrushed the Jaguars by an average of 142-78 during a six-game series winning streak from 2018-2020. Those numbers must reverse for the Jaguars to win Sunday.
- The Texans will win if: The Jaguars are careless. The Jaguars have lost six consecutive games to the Texans due in large part to 13 turnovers in those games. Rookie quarterbacks are prone to mistakes; if the Jaguars are to win, they must help him and protect the football.
- As Sexton sees it: These teams are headed in opposite directions. The Jaguars are on the rise with a franchise quarterback. The Texans had their franchise quarterback, but now look remarkably similar to the 2020 Jaguars. The thing is, those Jaguars got their only victory of the season in Week 1 against an Indianapolis Colts team that made the postseason. This is anything but a guaranteed win. I think the Jaguars win, but I don't expect it to feel good about it until the clock hits 00:00.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
- The Jaguars will win if: They execute their game plan – which is to run effectively with an experienced offensive line, and to contain Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The first part of that approach is key. The Jaguars, despite selecting Lawrence No. 1 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, want to run well and consistently. They don't want Lawrence to have to win by himself.
- The Texans will win if: Experience wins. The Texans began what could be a total rebuild this offseason by signing a slew of experienced veterans. What they lack in elite names they make up for with experience – which could be an advantage against a talented, but young, Jaguars team.
- As Oehser sees it: This is a tougher matchup for the Jaguars than many fans and observers believe. While many NFL observers consider the Texans are one of the NFL's worst rosters, even struggling NFL teams are typically dangerous early in the season when healthy – and when they still have hope for the season. The Texans' experience and the Jaguars' inexperience makes this a tricky game for the Jaguars.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
- The Jaguars will win if: They win the turnover battle. Turnovers are always the single-most determining factor in a football game and both organizations under new regimes have made it a significant point of emphasis. Week 1 NFL games always have many nervous moments, unexpecteds and unknowns. Protecting the football ensures a team can ride out any of these circumstances.
- The Texans will win if: They run effectively and control tempo. The Texans have implemented plenty of change since the end of the 2020 season – and it has not been without significant and ongoing drama. Taylor is no Deshaun Watson, and he will need his offensive line and large stable of running backs to have a banner day.
- As Lageman sees it: This game will provide a snapshot to where both organizations are. The Jaguars, led by Head Coach Urban Meyer and Lawrence, will have a solid start to the season running a balanced offense that will prove to be effective. Lawrence will have a couple WOW throws or moments like he had throughout training camp. The Texans led by Head Coach David Culley and Taylor will struggle to find any consistency amongst a fan base that wonders what the future holds – and also where Watson will be watching the game.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
- The Jaguars will win: If they take care of the football. Houston was terrific in the preseason forcing turnovers with ten, while the Jags forced none. I'm not a big believer that everything from preseason spills over to the regular season but that is eye-popping. The Jaguars don't want to give the Texans anything easy, especially early in the game.
- The Texans will win if they can run the ball. The Jaguars have spent an entire offseason trying to fix a poor run defense from the last two seasons. They did a nice job in the preseason stopping the run but was anyone really trying to run it? Taylor is a game manager and needs the run game to be effective. I think Houston will have to run for more than 150 yards to win Sunday.
- As Martineau sees it: The Jaguars will win. Meyer knows how to get a team ready to win with a lot of preparation time and it doesn't matter if it's the NFL or college. While Houston could surprise the Jags with some things with their new staff, I think the Jags have an advantage early in the season while we all figure out what they will look like. I think this is a resounding start to the Urban and Trevor Era as the Jaguars win, 31-13.
Ashlyn Sullivan, Digital reporter and host
- The Jaguars will win if: They have a conservative game plan. You don't need anything fancy this week; the Texans were last in the NFL against the run last season, and it does not look like they have done much to improve that. Pound the ball and see what kind of fresh legs you have with running backs James Robinson and Carlos Hyde. Give Lawrence the option to hand it off when he needs it.
- The Texans will win if: The Jaguars' run defense is not as good as we thought. The Texans have five running backs on their active roster. It's no secret they will rely on their running game. The Jaguars' run defense looked vastly improved in the preseason, but this is the real first test. If the defense stops the run this week, we can check the box that a major offseason project has worked.
- As Sullivan sees it: The perfect game for me would be a heavy running attack with great defense that holds the Texans to under ten points. I know everyone will have their eyes on Lawrence – and I will as well – but this game is about establishing your running game and your rookie quarterback just being a game manager with maybe one or two highlight throws. Just get the win.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
- The Jaguars will win if: They navigate the enormity of the moment. It is the first NFL game for Meyer, for Lawrence. It is the first NFL game as a defensive coordinator for Joe Cullen. I think all will be very good. But firsts are firsts. I think the Jaguars have the better team, but they have to navigate the newness of it all. Stay in the moment, get off to a good start, then just play.
- The Texans will win if: They somehow put aside all the distractions of one of the most tumultuous NFL off seasons in recent history. Taylor needs to be a calming influence. They must run running back Phillip Lindsay and, in the process, run some clock. I don't think the Texans want a shootout.
- As Frangie sees it: This is a perfect first game for the Jaguars: First-time NFL head coach versus first-time NFL head coach, and I think the Jags have the better of the two. If they play a clean game — avoid turnovers, false starts and that clunky lack of rhythm we saw in the first two preseason games – I think the Jags will be fine.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
- Jaguars will win if: *They win the turnover battle and run. History will tell you it's hard to win in the NFL, especially on the road, with a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start. Lawrence has looked great in camp and the preseason, but it all changes when it is for real. I think he will have a good game, but offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell must take as much pressure off him as possible, and the best way to do that is running the ball and staying out of bad down-and-distance situations.
- The Texans will win if: They dominate the line of scrimmage defensively and stay balanced offensively. They have had a tough offseason and Watson won't play, but they have a veteran group and Taylor has won games as a starter. They will have a chip on their shoulder and should come out with a lot of energy.
- As Boselli sees it: As I said, history isn't on the Jaguars' side when it comes to rookie quarterbacks making their first start, but I'm confident Lawrence is ready and will have a good day Sunday. I think it's close, but the Jaguars will pull out a victory giving Meyer and Lawrence their first NFL victories.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
- The Jaguars will win if: They score early. In the last 32 games, the Jaguars have averaged just over eight first-half points. Jacksonville must set the tempo early and establish some scoring drives. Lawrence should be able to pass against one of the NFL's worst secondaries.
- The Texans will win if: They run well. Only two offensive starters return for Houston. The Texans will lean on four different backs to run right at Jacksonville. The Jaguars allowed more than 153 yards rushing a game last season. If the Texans run well, they will shorten the game and win their seventh consecutive game in the series.
- As Ballou sees it: Jacksonville made several changes to the defensive front, which features a new scheme under Cullen. The Jaguars have improved when it comes to defending the run. The Jaguars will force Taylor to make plays from the pocket, where he will struggle. It will be a tightly contested, low-scoring scoring game in which Jacksonville will come out on top. Twenty-one points will win this one.
J.P. Shadrick, Jaguars senior reporter
- The Jaguars will win if: They can balance the offensive attack. Run the ball effectively with Robinson and give Lawrence something to lean on so he can take some chances down the field. We haven't seen enough down-the-field play offensively in the last few seasons.
- The Texans will win if: Taylor is allowed to maneuver through a revamped Jaguars defense. The Texans don't have the outside weapons they have had over the last decade, but Taylor is a threat to hurt you with his legs if things break down. Keep him in the pocket, and pressure him with a revamped defensive line and Cullen's blitzing schemes.
- As Shadrick sees it: Weird things can happen in Week 1 games – a scheme or formation you didn't plan for, an unexpected breakout star, etc. The best teams this week handle an adverse situation or a bad play with poise and move on to the next. It is an important Sunday for the Jaguars organization: Meyer's NFL debut, Lawrence taking his first regular-season snaps, a retooled defense looking for an early statement. But it is still only one game of 17 on the schedule. Football is back, and so is that uneasy, anxious feeling…. isn't it nice?
Check out top photos from the Jaguars practice on Wednesday September 8th as they get ready for week 1 against the Texans in Houston.