Five Storylines to Watch: Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Can the trip to London for the Jaguars prove to be a lucky one heading into the bye week?
Gardner Minshew said he was surprised at how his impact on the Jacksonville Jaguars has carried over to the UK. He is seeing it firsthand this weekend at is team prepares for Sunday’s game against an AFC South rival.
Coming off back-to-back wins, the Jacksonville Jaguars head across the pond to their home away from home to face the Houston Texans. The 4-4 team from North Florida will take to the field at Wembley Stadium for the seventh straight season, hoping to not only improve on its 3-3 record in its home away from home but to also head into the bye week with a 5-4 record.
Fans of the Black and Teal should watch for these storylines to unfold in London.
One Last Dance… maybe? – It’s without question that rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew is surpassing expectations as a backup quarterback, and is making the team’s decision to start Nick Foles more interesting.
Minshew is 4-3 this season as the Jaguars starting quarterback with 1,976 yards, 13 touchdowns, and only two interceptions.
But Minshew will have a shot to really make a strong case to stay as starting quarterback with a huge matchup against a division rival. Minshew’s first NFL start came against the Texans, when he went 23-33 for 213 yards and one touchdown, as well as orchestrating an almost game-winning drive that resulted in a missed two-point conversion.
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Minshew has grown as a quarterback since and will look to gain traction in a very competitive AFC South. Houston will be without safety Tashaun Gipson, and cornerbacks Lonnie Johnson and Bradley Roby.
It’s Minshew’s first game overseas, something that can prove difficult for the rookie. But if Minshew has shown Jaguars fans anything, it’s that he’s ready for any challenge.
Overseas Quake – Lots have changed since the Jaguars faced the Texans in week two, including the resurgence of running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette rushed for only 47 yards on 15 carries in Week 2 but is now a top-five rusher in the NFL with 791 yards.
Houston will be without J.J. Watt, who is lost for the remainder of the season, something the Jaguars must take advantage of on the ground.
If Jacksonville wants to control the game and tempo, Fournette will be a key player in making that happen.
Contain and pressure Deshaun Watson – The biggest question mark for the Jaguars this week is whether they will be able to stop quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson had a quiet game against the Jaguars in Week 2, going 16-29 for 159 yards and no touchdowns.
But it starts in the trenches for the Jaguars defense. Pass rushers Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue and Josh Allen must force Watson to the ground early, not allowing the dual-threat quarterback to make plays outside the pocket.
Defensive coordinator Todd Wash did an excellent job last week adjusting and sending pressure, which should translate over against the eighth-worst offensive line in the NFL.
Stop the Genie – Texans superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is very much like the genie he dressed up as, he does things on the football field that make you think twice and claim is spectacular.
Hopkins will have a juicy matchup against the Jaguars now that former cornerback Jalen Ramsey is not covering him from sideline to sideline. Cornerback A.J. Bouye will be asked to blanket him.
In order to limit Hopkins, the Jaguars secondary must double the playmaking threat and challenge the other receivers to beat them. Houston will already be without speedster Will Fuller.
If Kenny Stills, Keke Coutee, and Darren Fells beat you, so be it. Just don’t let it be the guy you know will be Watson’s top target and security blanket.
Playoff Implications – Sunday will feel like a playoff game, both teams know the importance of what’s a stake. It is imperative that the Jaguars come back to the United States with a win.
Going into the bye week at 5-4 instead of 4-5 changes the outlook of the entire season, no matter who starts for the team in the coming weeks.
Sunday is much more than who truly deserves to be the Jaguars starting quarterback, it is the kickoff to a Jaguars playoff run. Just win, Jaguars.