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Texans-Jaguars Preview: Five More Things To Watch For

Matt Weston gives you everything you need to watch for when the Texans continue to tumble their way towards a division title.

Houston Texans v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Hell, yeah. This game right here is what makes the AFC South great. This is what I live for. Rancid football in a game that means something for a fetid division title. The 2-11 Jaguars’ season is over, and it has been over for awhile. But the mighty Houston Texans at 7-6 and are kind of ahead of Tennessee. If they can get a one game advantage on the Titans by Week 17, the Texans will clinch the division, and not have to face the Titans in Methopatmia with something on the line on Sunday Niiiiiiight. You know what I want.

1.) Keep On Bortling, Baby.

No matter what the Jaguars do, they can never do anything right. This past offseason seemed like the first year they would be on the up and come. They “won” the offseason. They added talent to their defense. That, plus their offense from last year, would equal wins this year. It was possible they could contend for the division.

Yeah, right. Instead what happened is the cat changed his pajamas. The Jaguars’ offense became horrendous while their defense became a top fifteen unit in the league. The Jaguars are currently 15th in defensive DVOA and 27th in offensive DVOA. That’s a switch from 26th in defensive DVOA and 21st in offensive DVOA.

The problem here is Blake Bortles. In year two, he had similar issues as his rookie year. He was an inconsistent thrower with accuracy issues, and he was dumber than a piece of chalk. In year three, it was thought he could improve at either of these things. He hasn’t.

Blake Bortles

15' 58.60% 5.80% 3.00% 7.3 12.5 46.4 7.80% 54 (25th) -9.9% (25th)
16' 58.70% 4.00% 2.90% 6.1 10.4 51.2 5.10% 82 (21st) -8.9% (24th)

Blake Bortles’ completion percentage is again below 60%. His interception rate has stayed the same. He’s second in the league in interceptions thrown at 15. The big problem here is his yards per attempt has dropped by more than a yard. He’s fallen from 7.3 yards an attempt to 6.1. Over the course of a 600 pass attempt season, that’s a 720 yard difference. Last year Jacksonville was able to live with the mistakes and the incompletions because Bortles was chunking it deep to Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson. This season both Hurns and Robinson have sub-50% catch rates. They are averaging less than 50 receiving yards a game and they have seen their yards per catch drop from 16.1 to 13.6 and 17.5 to 11.1, respectively. Now that the sun has come out and that creek is a vestige, traveling back to the subterranean part of the Earth, Bortles is completely worthless.

That’s going to be a problem tomorrow. The Texans have been incredible at blanketing receivers. They have covered every pass offense they have faced this season. Dragon-slaying quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, and Aaron Rodgers have all had below-average games against this Texans’ secondary. Bortles should have similar troubles completing passes with any consistency. The key for him is going to be making throws down field and avoiding enormous mistakes that lead to easy points for Houston’s queasy offense. He can’t throw touchdown passes to Kareem Jackson this game.

2.) Run Game = Nonexistent.

I know I just called Bortles worthless. That was mean. I’m sorry. He isn’t. He still is a great athlete. He has a BIG arm. He can throw it really far. He is everything that those old crusty men dream about when they think of a quarterback. In year three, I don’t believe he is completely finished. I think his biggest problem is Jacksonville’s offense really hasn’t helped him.

The Jaguars can’t run the football. They are 29th in adjusted line yards at 3.4. Their running backs are gaining 3.62 yards a carry. They have zero guard play. They can’t move anyone. Left guard has been a Gravitron this year, constantly revolving and spinning spew. Their tackles are fine in pass protection, but they don’t drive anyone off the ball. There’s no space for their backs to move, let alone breathe.

This is all on Jacksonville. They had open tryouts on their offensive line and failed to bring in any real talent to it. Instead, they used all of their draft capital and free agency money on the defense. The only offensive player they brought in, Chris Ivory, has been horrendous. He has 93 carries for 350 yards, two touchdowns, and is averaging 3.8 yards a carry. Le’Veon Bell can do in one game what Ivory has done this entire season. Ivory has broken just 18 tackles and has a broken tackle rate of 16.7%. His DYAR is -105. His DVOA is -36.5%. He’s a 28 year old bruising Marion Barber-esque running back. He isn’t going to get any better. The Jaguars signed him to a five year, $32 million contract. They can’t cut him until after 2017.

With horrendous run blocking and running backs that can’t break tackles and transcend their offensive line (T.J. Yeldon included), the Jags haven’t been able to run the ball at all. They have forced Bortles to be the sole yard creator, and that’s not what he is. He’s not an efficient passer. He’s a catapult. Because of the decisions they made this past offseason, the Jaguars have created an inefficient run game and have forced Bortles to be something that he isn’t.

3.) This Is So Sad.

One of the important things to learn in life is to never have high expectations for anything. Don’t get your hopes up. Always assume things are going to be pretty alright. So when things are great, WOW-WEE, boy are they ever great. It’s not a conclusion of some absurd manifest destiny. It’s an incredible surprise. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals, or better yourself, or not work hard. Do all of that. Don’t lay down and give into laziness and let life glaze over you. Put all the work in in an attempt get what you want. Just don’t attach future feelings to it. Don’t expect a damn thing.

Last offseason, the Texans’ offense was a mirage of offensive firepower. Receivers who had different skill could attack any type of defense. Lamar Miller, a running back with speed, burst, vision, and patience, would stop the run offense from being a plopping plod of glop. Jeff Allen would adequately replace Brandon Brooks. Most importantly, the belle of this ball, Brock Osweiler would be a real actual quarterback, a player the Texans had been missing since 2013.

Then real life hit. All of those expectations made a dour situation even more sour.

Braxton Miller and Jaelen Strong had 15 and 14 catches before hitting IR.

DeAndre Hopkins is averaging 53.9 yards a game.

Will Fuller has 37 catches and has been nonexistent since teams have started playing with two deep safeties.

Lamar Miller has been wasted between the tackles, is dealing with injuries, and already has 246 carries on the year.

Brock Osweiler has a completion rate of 59.7% (28th), thrown 14 touchdowns (T-22), 14 interceptions (T-3rd), averaging 5.8 Y/A (LAST), 9.7 Y/C (LAST), has a DYAR of -454 (LAST), a DVOA of -25.2% (LAST), and a QBR of 56.5 (22nd).

Together, this abominable smorgasbord is averaging 17.6 points a game (28th) and is 31st in DVOA.

It’s been a long year of vile performances that have now turned from vile to stale. Bill O’Brien has completely given up on Osweiler and the passing game. O’Brien’s only goal now is to get a lead and sit and sit and sit, hoping it doesn’t explode in his pants. The Texans are going to get two good drives a game, run the ball enough, and pray the defense doesn’t give up more than 20 points.

What they did against the Colts last week was the the kind of Bill O’Brien (:()football we were accustomed to back when they juggled Case Keenum and Ryan Mallett. The Texans ran the ball 41 times for 185 yards and scored 22 points. They scored points on short fields and caught the mistakes Andrew Luck tossed. They made sure to limit and hide Osweieler as much as possible.

In Bill O’Brien’s head coaching career, the Texans have run the ball an average of 35.56 times a game for 136.04 yards, which comes out to 3.78 yards a game. Yeah, I know. Teams who have a lead run the ball more. I get it. But 35 times is outrageous. The Texans don’t even run it well either. It’s monotonous. The least amount of rushing attempts in a win they had was 23, when they ran for 46 yards against the Titans and 37 yards against the Bills. This wasn’t supposed to be and shouldn’t be the type of offensive game plan you have when you pay a quarterback $18 million a year. This type of gross football is reserved for rookie quarterbacks or Brian Hoyer at $3.5 million. Not “franchise quarterbacks”.

Tomorrow should be more of the same. Against the Colts, Brock Osweiler completed 14 passes. Against the Jaguars earlier this year, he threw for 99 yards. Bill O’Brien’s job is to win football games. He’s going to try and do this by following his defense, hoping they get a lead, running the ball a lot, and praying that Osweiler has as little impact on the game as possible.

4.) Closer Than That Shirt You Are Wearing .

Although the Texans are 7-6, they aren’t a good football team. They have played metronomic missionary style football. Rational. Calm. Free of mistakes aside from those fourteen Brock Osweiler throws. They are the khaki pants of football. They are the John Mayer you hear when you are buying a pack of ten white t-shirts at the mall. They are the coupons for toasters you clip out of the Sunday paper. They are the Meet The Press you watch every Sunday morning. They are your Oxford shirts. They are the current you, the you see in the mirror that the younger you would have looked at and said, “What the hell happened?”.

The Texans are 7-6 because they have won six one possession games. They are 7-6 despite having a DVOA of -22.6% (30th) and the 31st best offense. Optimism! The only win they have that wasn’t decided by one score was a 23-14 win over the 3-10 Chicago Bears. Their last six games have been decided by a score or less. The Texans don’t blow out anyone. It doesn’t matter who they play. The game is going to be close.

The last time these two teams played, Houston won 24-21. They had a Jackson pick-six. A long Lamar Miller run that set up another touchdown. A 57-yard Tyler Ervin punt return set up another short touchdown drive. They won despite Brock Osweiler throwing for less than 100 yards. Even then, it took DeAndre Hopkins picking up a first down at the end of the game to close out the clock to prevent a Blake Bortles game-winning drive attempt. This game was close and gross.

This weekend I’m expecting nothing different. It’s going to be another close game. It’s going to be silly. The Texans will probably win.

5. If I Was Watching, This Is What I Would Watch.

I won’t be watching this game LIVE. I’ll be on the road heading home—tongue burnt, mouth numb, brain bloody, eyes red and runny. But if I was watching LIVE, and when I do watch it, I’m going to be rewinding and sifting through the gravel to watch the golden DeAndre Hopkins versus Jalen Ramsey matchup.

The last time these two played, Ramsey was the marrow in Hopkins’s bones. Luke outlined it in an article earlier this year. In that game, Hopkins caught five passes on 13 targets. All of these pass attempts lead to 48 yards. That’s an Alfred Blueish 3.69 yards an attempt. Ramsey is the first corner I’ve seen who dominated Hopkins at the line of scrimmage. The swims and push-offs that have worked all year didn’t work against Ramsey. He held his ground, matched Hopkins physicality, and then added a bit more.

Look, this game is going to be boring. This matchup isn’t. Watch these two until they past beyond the prism of the screen. Then watch the in-game highlights of these two punching, pushing , nd scratching. This game isn’t going to be fun to watch. This matchup is that way, and it will continue to be, as long as these two stay in the AFC South.