When the Jacksonville Jaguars square off against the Houston Texans on Sunday in London, the flow of the game will be different than the week two matchup. Both teams are poised to crush the point total from the first contest (13-12 Texans victory). The scoreboard will not be safe on Sunday.
There have been many changes since mid-September, mainly for the Jaguars. Changes on the offense. Changes on the defense. And a change in offensive mindset for the Jaguars. With that in mind, the fans in Wembley Stadium should be prepares for plenty of scoring during this AFC South shootout.
Obviously the biggest change defensively will be the absence of cornerback Jalen Ramsey. During the week two matchup in Houston, Ramsey held Texans’ talented wide receiver Deandre Hopkins to five receptions and only 40 yards. An impressive feat considering Hopkins is one of the top receivers in the game.
But Ramsey will not be on the field this Sunday to shadow Hopkins. That responsibility is now on the shoulders of cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Tre Herndon. Look for defensive coordinator Todd Wash to roll over more coverage and help them out more so than the first matchup with Ramsey.
The concern with adding help on Hopkins, would be to make the middle of the field vulnerable to Houston’s other weapons like tight end Darren Fells. Most likely Fells will be covered by an inexperienced linebacker and will be a factor in the Texans’ passing game. This could lead to more scoring opportunities for Houston.
Entering week nine, the Jaguars rank 19th in rushing defense, yielding 108 yards per game.
Granted, that number is skewed after being gashed a few weeks ago in Carolina, but it is a concern nonetheless.
The last three weeks the defense has been able to stop the run against the Saints, Bengals, and Jets. So maybe things are looking up for a change.
Unfortunately for the Jaguars, run-stopper Marcell Dareus will be out again this week, leaving a hole in the middle.
In the week two matchup, Texans’ running back Carlos Hyde played a critical role in the victory by gaining 90 yards on 20 carries. If Hyde is able to gash out chunks of yardage against the defensive front, more scoring will become more likely.
The Jaguars will also have changes on the offense compared to the week two matchup.
This time rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew will have the majority of the playbook at his fingertips. The reigns are off the rookie and the play calling will be more aggressive and downfield.
Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo will look to find ways to exploit the injury-riddled Texans’ defense. And it shouldn’t be too hard to have the offense score points in bunches.
Since the week two game, Minshew has been named the Offensive Rookie of the Week six different times and has shown full grasp of the offense.
He has shown his ability to create and extend plays with his arm and legs. There is speculation that this could potentially be his last start at quarterback for the Jaguars this season with Nick Foles scheduled to return after the bye week. Minshew’s poise and maturity will help him keep that out of his mind. The Texans’ pass rush will be passive on Sunday, giving Minshew time to orchestrate scoring drives.
Another change since week two is the fact that the Jaguars have a legit number one wide receiver now. In fact, you could say this is the first time the Jaguars have had a number one receiver in years.
Second year receiver D.J. Chark has emerged as Minshew’s favorite target. Chark has exploded on the scene in 2019 with 39 grabs on 61 targets, for 660 yards and six touchdowns. His speed and size have become a weapon for Minshew both downfield and in the red zone.
Although Chark is dealing with a quad injury, he should be able to run free in the Houston secondary and find the endzone on Sunday.
Get your popcorn (or biscuits and gravy, in this case) ready for Sunday. But be sure to grab your calculator as well. Both the Texans and Jaguars will be able to put up points offensively against depleted opposing defenses.
The team with the most points in the end will continue to be a factor in the AFC South chase for the division title.