The Houston Texans will try to clinch their third AFC South title in the last four years when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 30, at NRG Stadium in Houston. Large sections of the country will be able to watch the game on CBS.
The Texans opened the week as 7-point favorites. However, that line has dropped to 6.5 points. The over/under is set at 40 points. Click here to check out all of the Week 17 betting odds.
Not long ago, the Texans were the hottest team in the NFL, rattling off nine straight wins after a disastrous 0-3 start to the season. But Houston has cooled off in December, losing two of their last three games. To be fair, those two losses have come by a total of five points, so both have been tight games in the 4th quarter. The Texans have also locked up a playoff spot despite a couple of hiccups in recent weeks.
Nevertheless, the Texans still need a win in Week 17 to assure the AFC South crown. If Houston loses, the division title will go to the winner of Sunday’s Colts-Titans game. Of course, those recent losses may have cost the Texans a first-round bye in the playoffs. Houston needs to win this week and have the Patriots lose in order to earn the no. 2 seed in the AFC and get next week off.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars will finally get to finish off what has been a nightmare of a season for them. One year after reaching the AFC Championship Game, Jacksonville will enter Week 5-10. It could have actually been worse but the Jags have won two of their last four games after a 7-game losing streak. It’s also worth noting that Blake Bortles will return to the starting lineup after coming off the bench last week. Of course, Bortles will likely be released after the season, so this will probably be his last game with the Jaguars.
When these teams met back in Week 7, the Texans cruised to a 20-7 win. Houston didn’t exactly dominate that game with Deshaun Watson playing with bruised ribs. But the defense forced three Jacksonville turnovers, which made for a comfortable win. Oddly enough, Bortles was benched in that game, although he did retain his starting job the following week. He’ll now get a second chance to face the Texans and redeem himself at the end of a troubled season.
Rather quietly, this is one the toughest games to call this week. The Jaguars, surprisingly, have only lost one game by more than a touchdown in their last eight games. They are still capable of flexing their defensive muscle and making a game close. However, I still like how the Texans match up against Jacksonville. With plenty of motivation and the home crowd behind them, I like Houston to win by at least a touchdown and cover.
While the Jaguars are still capable of playing great defense, they have a world of problems on offense. Four of their five starters along the offensive line have been placed on IR, which has taken a toll on their running game. Leonard Fournette has gained no more than 46 yards in each of his last three games, and the Jags just can’t win that way, especially against the Texans.
The Houston defense gives up just 3.5 yards per carry on the ground, so they shouldn’t have a problem keeping Fournette contained against such a porous offensive line. If the Jaguars can’t run the ball, they’ll become even more vulnerable to Houston’s terrifying pass rush. In fact, one reason Bortles is starting this week is his mobility. The Jaguars are actually anticipating major problems against the Houston pass rush.
Of course, while Bortles may be mobile, that’s all he has going for him these days. Despite completing five of his six passes last week against a lackluster Miami defense, Bortles doesn’t bring much to the table. After all, he was benched a month ago in favor of Cody Kessler, which tells you everything you need to know about the state of his career.
On the other side of the ball, the Texans have been a little up and down the past few weeks. Like Jacksonville, they are playing with an offensive line that just isn’t getting the job done these days. Houston is also a little short at wide receiver after losing Demaryius Thomas to a season-ending injury. The good news is that Lamar Miller is in line to return from injury this week. When Miller is at his best, the Texans have a reliable rushing attack, which takes some of the heat off Deshaun Watson, allowing him to make plays with both his arm and his legs.
Despite some inconsistency on offense, the Texans have been held under 21 points just once in their last eight games. As long as that trend continues, I like Houston to cover. The Jags may not be able to rely on their running game and they surely can’t depend on Bortles. In the end, I don’t think Jacksonville can score enough points to beat the spread, so I’ll lean toward Houston to cover at home.