Houston Texans (5-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-6)
The Texans are 5-3, but rank just 25th in first down rate percentage. That’s because their 5 wins have come by a combined 33 points, while their 3 losses have come by a combined 63 points. Their -30 point differential is also just 25th in the NFL. All 5 of their wins came at home against average or worst opponents, with none coming by more than a touchdown. Their 3 losses, meanwhile, came in their 3 road games and were all blowouts. The Jaguars are not the Vikings, Patriots, or Broncos, the Texans’ 3 road opponents to date, but that doesn’t mean this game will be easy for them, given that they’ve struggled for most of the season.
Looking at Jacksonville’s 2-6 record, you’d think they’ve struggled for most of the season as well, and they have played very poorly at times, but much of their struggles have been the result of a league worst -12 turnover differential. Last week, they likely would have beaten the Chiefs in Kansas City if not for a -4 turnover differential. Despite that -4 differential, it was still just a 5 point game, as the Jaguars won the first down battle 25 to 10. Turnover differentials tend to be very inconsistent from week-to-week. For example, teams that have a -4 turnover differential in a game like the Jaguars did last week, on average, have a +0.1 turnover margin the following week and cover at a 53.2% rate as a result.
The Jaguars actually enter this game 10th in first down rate differential. Outside of those 12 plays, they really haven’t been bad this season and if they play just turnover neutral football going forward they figure to win significantly more games in their final 8 games than their first 8 games. On paper, they have a reasonable roster and are relatively healthy right now. These two teams are at least even so the Jaguars should be at least field goal favorites at home here, meaning we’re getting a decent amount of line value with the Jaguars as mere 1 point home favorites. The Jaguars are worth a bet.
Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Houston Texans 16
Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -1