By Dustin Fletcher | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars will have their annual London ‘home game’ at 9:30 a.m. EST at Wembley Stadium. They will be taking on their division rival, the Houston Texans in the first away game of the three games on the road in November. The game will be pivotal for the season and the Jaguars playoff chances. In Week Two, Gardner Minshew led a last minute drive, to in theory, tie the game against the Texans. However, Jacksonville opted to go for a win with a two point conversion and fell just short.
In Week Two, Gardner Minshew had a rough time getting the ball moving. He was 23 for 33 through the air with 213 yards and a touchdown. He is coming off of a strong showing against the New York Jets last week with three touchdowns. Not only that, but the Texans have been poor in pass defense this season after losing key pieces such as Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson in the offseason. Not only this, but all-pro defensive end J.J. Watt will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Watt already underwent surgery for the injury. Minshew should have ample time to throw should his offensive line play up to par. Minshew fumbled twice to outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus in Week Two with one going for a touchdown.
This game will have huge consequences for both teams. The winner will hold the final AFC playoff spot through nine weeks before the bye. One matchup to watch will be AJ Bouye and Texans wide receiver Deandre Hopkins. Hopkins has been relatively quiet against the Jaguars in recent seasons, as former Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey has followed him around the field. Bouye will now be tasked with covering his former Texans teammate.
A huge problem early in the season was stopping the run. Houston’s own Carlos Hyde carried the ball 20 times for 90 yards in Week Two. One huge key will be stopping the run and forcing Houston into tough third and long situations. If the Jaguars can get into these situations, they should be able to send blitz packages at superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson. Houston has a depleted offensive line and should be vulnerable to quarterback pressures. Starting left and right tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard are questionable for Sunday’s game. Their status will be pivotal to the way this game is dictated for Houston’s offense. If neither can go, Houston will face intense pressure from Jaguar defensive ends Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue. They were able to keep Watson to a season low 159 yards in their previous game. Watson has been a frontrunner for the league MVP this year along with Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson [and the Patriots defense, lol].
The Texans also have a newfound safety blanket for Deshaun Watson as well in tight end Darren Fells. Fells is a massive 6-foot-8-inch target for the quarterback, which could cause problems for linebackers covering him. Safeties Jarrod Wilson and Ronnie Harrison must play great games not only to keep Hopkins from going absolutely nuclear, but to keep Fells as a non-factor. Linebacker Myles Jack will probably handle coverage duties on Fells in base and nickel packages as well.
If the Jaguars can play with good field position and manage the clock, they should win this game and move into the playoff picture. However, they must execute and not take any plays off against a dominant Texans air attack. If Deshaun Watson is a non-factor, we should see a quarterback controversy in Week 11, as Minshew will have a 5-4 record through nine weeks. The team has a Week 10 bye week. Things could get hairy for Jockstrap Jesus and the gang if the team makes the wrong decision at quarterback, whether that be sticking with Minshew or calling to the bullpen to former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Foles broke his clavicle in Week One and will be eligible to play Week 11. Minshew has been rookie of the Week Six out of eight weeks this season, so the decision certainly won’t be easy.
Prediction: #DUUUVAL 24 – Houston Texans 21
Dustin Fletcher is the sports editor of the Flagler College Gargoyle and is the official source of Jacksonville Jaguars news for Flagler College.