So Now What?

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Matchup Preview Against the Texans  

Now let’s shift the attention to the game on Sunday. I think the two teams are facing a ‘Goodbye Bowl’, because whoever loses on Sunday is saying ‘bye-bye playoffs’. Remember when I wrote that the Titans and Jags are very similar to each other? Well, funny but true, I now see a lot of commonalities between the Texans and the Jaguars: their offenses are their true calling card, the defenses are barely above stinking, both teams have a terrible secondary, boths teams have lost his defensive leaders (and by the way, since Demeco Ryans went to IR, the wheels have really fallen off the Texans’ D – and it can happen now with the Jaguars too). And of course both head coaches are on the hot seat…

Until Kampman’s injury I kind of liked the match up for this game. Other then the DEs, the Texans defense is just horrible. Brian Cushing is not looking the same as he did in 2009 and the only real threat in the secondary is Bernard Pollard who is more of a run defender. The two corners are playing at a very low level and if Eugene Monroe can handle Mario Williams (which he did already twice last year) and Jordan Black can get enough help to limit Antonio Williams, then there’s no excuse for David Garrard & Co. to not tear this defense apart. Even Maurice Jones-Drew could have his first monster game of the ’10 season – because Shaun Cody and Amobi Okoye are everything but a serious obstacle at the middle. Plus now that Kampman is gone, the Jaguars must (even more than before) sustain long scoring drives to keep the opposing offenses off the field. I think they will acheive this against the Texans. And one more thing, the Texans share a problem that the Jaguars have suffered from for a long time – covering TEs. Marcedes Lewis can add another great game to his excellent season, and I hope we will see a little Zach Miller, too. If Garrard and the Jaguars don’t turn the ball over and can play the way they did against Indy or Dallas, I think the Jaguars will win the game.

Let’s turn the table and see how the match up looks when the Texans offense and the Jaguars defense are on the field. Owen Daniels is out. Andre Johnson has been banged up all year long. Matt Schaub (who was considered a Top 5 QB before the season started) is having a similar season to David Garrard. In fact, ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky suggested that Garrard is in fact, playing at a better level than him. And let’s not forget what happened last year in the home game against the Texans – the Jaguars starting DEs were Harvey and Quentin Groves and as a result of a Harvey sack, Schaub was knocked out long enough to let the Jaguars offense and defense run away with the game. The Texans O-line has allowed Schaub to be sacked 21 times. The Jaguars’ O-line has allowed 18 sacks so far. All of that suggests that even without Kampman, the Jaguars defense has a shot to get to Schaub and take down the Texans, right?

Well, I’m not sure. Why? Two words: Arian Foster. In 2010, the Texans finally got what they have wished for since 2002- a blue chip RB. Now they finally got that in Foster, who is leading the NFL in rushing yards, and having what may be a better season thAn Maurice had in ’09!  He is having an astonishing 108 yard/game average, which is simply unbelievable. The fact that he likes to run towards DEs makes him even more frightening. Although Derrick Harvey’s only upside (besides his durability) is that he is good against the run, I have concerns about if he can handle Foster. Then there is Jeremy Mincey with his broken arm, which is a bad combination in my opinion. Plus, with a legitimate threat in Foster now, the Texans’ offense can really execute play-action plays, which could mean big trouble for the Jaguars. I guess everyone can understand why I’m not wasting any words about the Texans’ passing offense versus the Jaguars pass defense – because we all know what will probably happen: 300+ passing yards; 2-3 receiving TDs…maybe more! Not to mention, behind Foster is Derrick Ward, who also has had a pretty solid year as a #2 back. I think the biggest surprise of this season is that the Texans running game (6) is ranked ahead of the Jaguars (7) right now…

Side note: in the upcoming 5 weeks, the Jaguars defense will face top RBs  in every game – Foster, then Peyton Hills, then Ahmad Bradshaw (and Brandon Jacobs), then Chris Johnson, and then Darren McFadden. Stopping (or non stopping) the Texans running game will be a great preview about what we can expect from the Jaguars run defense….

Two X-factors AGAINST the Jaguars  

As if the powerful running game and the Texans’ big play ability were not enough, there are two more concerns about this game. One of that is pretty old and the other that is sadly, brand new.

The new concern is: how will the Jaguars respond to the loss of Aaron Kampman? According to the reporters who were at the locker room on Friday, the atmosphere in the locker room is shock and bordering lethargic (that alone show how much impact Aaron have on this team, and he joined the Jags only last March). According to Gene Frenette there “was never seen a player come in from elsewhere and be a greater force as a leader in locker room”. I’m really interested to see how the team and especially the defense and the D-line will react of his loss.

The other issue is the Jaguars under Jack Del Rio have a tendency to be rusty out of the bye week. Their record after the bye since 2003 is 2-5, which is a concern. I think this will be another barometer for Jack’s future. If his team comes out hot and plays the way they did against Dallas and wins the game, (especially after Friday’s momentum-killing news), that will be something he can cite as a reason to keep his job at the end of the season. But if the Jaguars come out rusty and lay an egg, I think it will be the real beginning of the end for him…

Final Thoughts  

I don’t know what I can expect from this ballgame, especially after what happened with Kampman. The Jaguars have the chance to knock out a divisional rival and stay alive in the playoffs. The opponent is kind of a “middle of a road” team, which the Jags have not faced so far. Until now the Jags have beaten the bad teams and lost to the good ones (with the exception of Indy, I consider the Chargers a good team and I think they will be the real challenger of Kansas City for the AFC West title). In the second half of the schedule, Jacksonville will face a couple “middle of the road teams” (the Texans twice, the Browns, Raiders, and Redskins) who are all in similar situations (developing young talent and building the foundation of the future) to the Jaguars. These five games will show how competitive (or not competitive) the Jaguars are against teams of similar caliber. Although the Texans are not in a rebuilding year (in fact everyone, even me, thought this would be their breakthrough year), the injuries and other problems have pushed them back to the level where the Jaguars are currently. I expect a shootout between the two teams and not very much defensively. I hope ‘good David’ will show up and with the help of the special teams, the Jags can manage to win this game. Because if they don’t, things can turn really bad on many levels….

Prediction: Jaguars – 34, Texans – 31  

Zoltan Paksa