Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0, 0-0 ATS) at Houston Texans (0-0, 0-0), 1 p.m.
Implied Team Totals: Jags 24.25, Texans 21.25
Spread/Total Movements: 3 to 2.5 to 3, 45.5 to 44.5 to 45.5
Jaguars Injuries to Watch: RB Travis Etienne (Lisfranc, IR)
Texans Injuries to Watch: CB Bradley Roby (traded to NO), K Ka’imi Fairburn (IR),
Brolley’s Jaguars Stats and Trends
Jacksonville is 5-1 in its last six September contests.
The Jaguars are 2-7 ATS in their last nine games as a favorite
The under has hit in five of the last six games the Jaguars have been favored in.
The Jaguars are road favorites to open the season after going 1-15 last season.
Trevor Lawrence is the first rookie QB to be favored on the road in Week 1 since Russell Wilson in 2012. (Seattle lost straight up, at Arizona, 20-16.)
James Robinson is back to leading this backfield after Travis Etienne’s season-ending foot injury. It doesn’t look like he’ll dominate work in this backfield like he did when he stormed onto the scene last season. He played on 33-of-66 with Lawrence at quarterback while Carlos Hyde played on 28 snaps of those snaps. J-Rob posted a disappointing 38/147/1 rushing and 5/22 receiving in two games against the Texans last season.
Lawrence comes into the league after averaging 272.7 passing yards per game and 9.2 YPA while throwing for 60 TDs and just 13 INTs in 25 games over the last two seasons at Clemson. He’s also a threat as a runner despite his 6’6”, 213-pound frame, averaging 30.1 rushing yards per game with 17 rushing TDs in that same span. He gets a friendly first start against a Texans defense that allowed the ninth-most FPG (20.5) to QBs last season
Marvin Jones is expected to play in the season opener after spraining his shoulder in the preseason. He was the clear #1 option for Lawrence in the preseason with 7/93 receiving on nine targets while running just 23 routes. Jones posted 6/48 receiving on 12 targets against the Texans last season while playing with the Lions.
Laviska Shenault reportedly had a strong summer and he backed it up with 10/83/1 receiving on 14 targets in the preseason with both Jones and Chark missing time. Shenault finished as the WR47 with 11.2 FPG in 14 games as a rookie. He posted 7/79 receiving on eight targets in his lone full contest against the Texans last season.
D.J. Chark is expected to play in Week 1 after he missed the entire preseason with a broken finger. He disappointed last season as the WR40 with 11.8 FPG in 13 games, and he has failed to reach 60+ receiving yards in 16 of his last 23 games. Chark did erupt for 7/146/1 receiving in their final matchup against the Texans last season — he had just 3/16 receiving in a Week 5 performance.
Brolley’s Texans Stats and Trends
The Texans have failed to cover in their last four September contests.
Houston is 5-1 toward unders in its last six games as an underdog.
Tyrod Taylor has covered the spread in his last five starts.
Taylor is back in the starting lineup for the first since his medical mishap before Week 2 last season, and he’ll be making just his second start since Baker Mayfield unseated him in Cleveland back in Week 3 of 2018. He ran for just seven yards on six carries in his only start last season but he averaged 5.3/41.7 rushing per game with one touchdown in three starts for the Browns in 2018. The Jaguars allowed the fourth-most FPG (22.5) to QBs last season.
Brandin Cooks has finished as the WR17 or better in five of his first seven seasons, and he averaged an absurd 22.5 FPG with a 27.5% target share in four games without Will Fuller in the lineup last season — Deshaun Watson was also the quarterback. Cooks posted 11/244/2 receiving for 47.4 FP in two games against the Jaguars last season with Fuller in the lineup.
Rookie Nico Collins will battle it out with Chris Conley for snaps and targets across from Cooks to open the season, and it’s a battle he should eventually win. The third-round pick posted 3/40/1 receiving on seven targets in the preseason. The Jaguars gave up the 12th-most FPG (38.4) to WRs last season.
The Texans’ backfield is a complete mess with Phillip Lindsay and Mark Ingram expected to split snaps as the runners and David Johnson and Rex Burkhead working in passing situations. The Jaguars did give up the third-most rushing yards per game (126.9) to RBs last season and this game is projected to be tight with a three-point line, but it’s a leap of faith to trust any of these backs.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.4 (T24)
Plays per game: 60.7 (29th)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 60% (9th) | Run: 40% (24th)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 54.2% (8th) | Run: 45.8% (25th)
When the team is behind — Pass: 68.8% (8th) | Run: 31.2% (25th)
Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.7 (17th)
Plays per game: 57.3 (32nd)
When the game is within a score — Pass: 63.4% (3rd) | Run: 36.6% (30th)
When the team is ahead — Pass: 59.6% (1st) | Run: 40.4% (32nd)
When the team is behind — Pass: 65.2% (19th) | Run: 34.8% (14th)
Last year’s Jaguars were among the top-10 teams in pass rate in all gamescripts, mostly because they had to be. When the offense took the field, they found themselves behind on the scoreboard on 79% of their plays. That paced the league by a wide margin, as the Jets trailed second-most often (67%). Of course, their pace and play-calling tendencies will look drastically different in 2021. Even though they trailed a ton last year, the Jags’ weren’t in a hurry to try and get back into games. They ranked in the bottom-10 teams in pace, which is something HC Urban Meyer will likely change up. Meyer’s Buckeyes ranked 16th (2017) and 43rd (2018) in FootballOutsiders’ Adjusted Pace metrics in his final two seasons at Ohio State. While Meyer won’t be calling plays — former Lions OC Darrell Bevell will — make no mistake: this will be Meyer’s offense. Meyer was unequivocal back in February, “I’m certainly not going to call plays, that’s (Bevell’s) responsibility, but I have a real clear vision about what I want the offense to look like and (Bevell) was great.” I expect the Jags’ to be above-average in pace in 2021.
On the Texans side, their tendencies are obviously set to drastically change with Deshaun Watson unlikely to play all year. Houston had to keep their foot on the gas to have any chance of winning and that meant letting Watson chuck it early and often. That led to Watson throwing a career-high 544 passes last season. Even though Houston cleaned house this offseason, OC Tim Kelly is back calling plays and will probably lean way more run-heavy with Tyrod Taylor under center. Overall, this game is unexciting from a pace perspective, but it could turn into one of those sneaky high-ish scoring games with both offenses taking advantage of two bad defenses.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
I think the new scheme for the Texans under Lovie Smith is going to provide opportunities for the Jaguars’ receivers in this game. Who knows how involved DJ Chark will be after missing a significant amount of time this summer with a finger injury, but I do know that CB Vernon Hargreaves and company certainly aren’t going to scare me away from Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault. I think, in particular, Shenault is someone who is going to be a man-coverage dominator in the near future, and he could see a good deal of it this week.
I’m also noting Houston's run defense, which was atrocious last year, allowing a league-high 160.3 yards per game. I’d love to say this is exceptional news for James Robinson, and it might well be, but the usage of Carlos Hyde during the preseason was disturbing, even if Travis Etienne (foot) isn’t here to suck up touches as well.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Let’s start with the Texans. Outside of Tyrod Taylor in a 2-QB/superflex format — and a deep one, at that — the only player I’m considering in this matchup is WR Brandin Cooks, as a WR3. The Texans are abominable, and they have a three-man RB rotation of has-beens. Puke.
For the Jaguars, I’m firing up James Robinson as a high-end RB2 — I’d love to say he’s a locked-in RB1 this week, but I have no idea what coach Urban Meyer thinks in terms of RB rotations, and Carlos Hyde played a ton with the first team during the regular season. That said, it’s a pristine matchup, and I’d have to be absolutely loaded at the RB position to justify sitting Robinson. It’s possible fantasy players are in that group if they drafted early, before the Travis Etienne injury.
At WR, I like both Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault as WR3s, and I’m probably taking a “wait and see” approach on DJ Chark, given he hasn’t had as many reps with Trevor Lawrence as the other guys have. As for Lawrence, I think he’s easily defensible as a streaming QB, and is an excellent superflex option, but you probably have a better Week 1 start in your one-QB leagues.
Personally, I paired Lawrence with Justin Fields in my 14-team keeper league, so I will be rolling with him in this matchup, and I am happy to do so.