I looked at the opening numbers on Sunday night and was dreading writing anything about a game this week.
The end of the season is challenging to find bets and build narratives that make sense. Many teams are looking ahead to next season, and others are only playing for bonus contract money.
I looked up the card over a couple of times. Much of my focus was on Los Angeles Kansas City, New York New Orleans and New England Pittsburgh – all of which were on an extreme side of the spectrum.
To be completely honest, after winning with Jacksonville via Twitter last week (Matchbook readers had Arizona too), I overlooked this game at first glance. I saw the number of 11 1/2 and did not think much of it. Jacksonville has been playing very well, and Houston has many injury issues.
I had a sort of awakening moment.
“Wait a minute – this price is not right!”
Jacksonville is playing all-time franchise great football and is just coming off their most significant home victory – ever? The defense is outstanding. I understand that. But it is incredible how far this has come. Just one year ago bettors would not be caught dead holding a Blake Bortles +3 ticket, and now the vast majority of early support is laying 11 1/2 – in the division?
I acknowledge the fact Jacksonville won comfortably in week one. But that was the week after the hurricane ravaged the city.
Much has changed since the opening week of the season for these two teams, but, to put things in perspective, Houston was a six-point favourite in that game. This game has swung (in the division) a full seventeen-points the other way.
That does not happen in the NFL. Period.
The Texans team we see today is a tough matchup for Jacksonville. The Jaguars are not a dynamic team. They have success one way and one way only. If they are not able to score first and establish a run game, they have trouble.
The Texans hold teams to just 96% of their average gain per rush, and while they will not shut down the ground game, they can limit it to being mediocre.
What interests me is the significant advantage Houston has against the Jaguars offensive line. Clowney is playing as well as an edge rusher can. He disrupted a very similar styled Baltimore team two weeks ago and can do the same this Sunday. Jacksonville bettors will have to rely on Bortles under pressure where ranks 26th in passer rating.
Offensively, it is going to be a struggle for Houston. They need to establish a ground game to have any chance of moving the ball. Their best success might be later in the game. DeAndre Hopkins is a cardio machine. He completely wore out Jimmy Smith late in the game who tried to play him man to man on Monday Night.
Jacksonville has the two best corners in the league, but I don’t think they can outlast Hopkins the entire game.
Bill O’Brien is very sneaky with isolating Hopkins on one side by utilising trips on the other. Houston probably only needs 14 points to cover. I like my chances of a few big plays to set up scores.
From a market spot, this is as good as it gets. Jacksonville, a very “fragile” team (in a sense they can only win one way) is coming off their biggest victory of the season. It was a very physical and emotional game. They stayed at home, had some time to celebrate and now play a division game against the 4-9 Texans in their final home game of the season.
The market support could not be any higher for the Jaguars, but I think this game screams let down spot.
I do not see Jacksonville scoring enough to cover this number.
Houston Texas +11.5