Houston Texans (1-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1)
Blaine Gabbert looked serviceable in the opener against the Vikings, completing 23 of 39 for 260 yards, 2 touchdown, and no interceptions. Minnesota’s secondary is crap, but I was very impressed with Gabbert’s poise under pressure. I didn’t like the matchup for Gabbert because of his struggles under pressure last season. Minnesota has one of the league’s best pass rushes and they lived up to their billing, pressured Gabbert on 18 of 43 drop backs, but Gabbert only took 2 sacks and completed 9 of 15 on those 18 drop backs (3 runs).
Houston this week, unfortunately, has both a great pass rush and a great secondary, so this will be a major test for the 2nd year quarterback. He won’t get a lot of help from his offensive line. Minnesota’s got a great pass rush, but part of the reason why Gabbert was under pressure so much was the play of his offensive line, specifically right tackle. Cameron Bradfield got the start, but left with an ankle injury, allowing Guy Whimper, who was awful last year as a starter, to come in. He was awful, making Brian Robison look like a Pro Bowl defensive end.
Bradfield wasn’t much better before he got hurt and Robison pressured Gabbert on 9 throws. Whoever starts there this week will have a tough time trying to contain the Texans’ pass rush, especially if it’s Whimper, which it looks like it will be. Also likely to miss this week’s game with injury is left guard Eben Britton. Britton moved from right tackle to left guard when Will Rackley got hurt and if he can’t go, it’ll be up to either undrafted rookie Mike Brewster or Troy Kropog, recently signed, to start at left guard. Either way, it’s a problem area. Gabbert will be under pressure all night and if he reverts to his old habits, he could really struggle, especially against Houston’s secondary. Even if he continues to show poise in the pocket, the Jaguars will probably still have trouble moving the ball against a tough Houston defense.
The Jaguars also have injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Daryl Smith and Derek Cox did not suit up for the opener and might not play again this week. Smith was ProFootballFocus’ 2nd ranked outside linebacker last season, only behind Von Miller, while Derek Cox was a real shutdown cornerback in limited action in his 3rd year in the league last year, before going out with injuries.
Cox, a surprise 3rd round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, didn’t play well as a starter in either 2009 or 2010, but was awesome to start the season last year. He allowed just 9 completions on 28 attempts (32.1%) for 105 yards (3.8 YPA), no touchdowns, and no interceptions, while deflecting 3 passes and being penalized once. His 44.5 QB rating would have been 2nd in the league had he had enough snaps to qualify. If he can stay healthy and keep that up over an entire season, he’ll emerge as one of the top cornerbacks in the league, but those are pretty big ifs, especially now that he’s missed 1 game and maybe more. In the opener, replacements Aaron Ross and Kyle Bosworth predictably struggled. If the Jaguars couldn’t stop the Vikings, they’re going to have a lot of trouble stopping the Texans.
This matchup seems pretty straight forward. Jacksonville had a nice little game in an eventual losing effort to a mediocre Vikings team, but they’re simply too overmatched to beat or even hang with the Texans, especially being as banged up as they are now. The Texans might be the most complete team in the league. It’s not a very big bet though because I hate betting on road favorites of 7+. Road favorites of 7+ are 77-98 ATS since 2002, which is not quite significant enough to deter me from betting on the Texans in what should be a blow out game, but it is significant enough to prevent me from making this a big bet.
Weird things can happen in games between significantly superior teams and significantly inferior teams when the significantly inferior team is at home. Just think back to the Philadelphia at Cleveland game last week. Same situation and for the same reason I made it a small bet on Philadelphia, even though I felt it should be a blowout. It wasn’t and I wasn’t hurt too much.
Public lean: Houston (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Jacksonville covers)
Houston Texans 31 Jacksonville Jaguars 13
Pick against spread: Houston -7.5 (-105) 1 unit