The Jacksonville Jaguars return to their home away from home this weekend as they face the Houston Texans in London. This game has an early 9:30 a.m. EST kick-off time on Sunday, November 3 at Wembley Stadium in London. Fans can watch the game on the NFL Network.
On neutral turf, the Texans are listed as 1.5-point favorites with an over/under of 46.5 points. Click here to see all of this week’s NFL betting lines.
The Texans head to London in hopes of winning back-to-back games for the third time this season. Houston barely snagged a win last week, coming from behind in the fourth quarter to beat the Raiders 27-24. Nevertheless, it was a much-needed win for the Texans after losing a critical game to the Colts the previous week that cost them first place in the AFC South.
As it stands, the Texans are 5-3 and half a game behind Indianapolis in the division. Meanwhile, both the Titans and Jaguars are 4-4 and not far back in the most balanced division in football. The Texans, of course, will have a bye after their trip across the pond this week. They’ll return from that bye with consecutive games against the Ravens, Colts, and Patriots, so it’s vital that they get a win this week with such a difficult schedule ahead of them.
As mentioned, the Jags are 4-4 and undoubtedly in the thick of the AFC South race. Jacksonville has scored back-to-back wins against the lowly Bengals and Jets. To their credit, both games were won by double-digit margins. For what it’s worth, three of Jacksonville’s four losses this year have come by a touchdown or less. If nothing else, the Jags have been competitive this year and have grown accustomed to playing close games.
The month of November will be a critical one for the Jaguars. This week kicks off a stretch of three consecutive games against their three AFC South rivals. The Jags come back from next week’s bye with back-to-back road contests with the Colts and Titans. These three games could determine if the Jags are contenders or pretenders in the AFC South this year.
One of those close losses the Jags have suffered this year was a 13-12 loss to the Texans in Week 2. Making his first career start, Gardner Minshew led the Jags on a late touchdown drive, only for Leonard Fournette to come up a few millimeters short on the 2-point conversion attempt, giving Houston a 1-point win. With that win, the Texans have won three in a row and nine of their last 11 head-to-head meetings with the Jaguars.
This is the seventh straight season the Jaguars have played a game in London. There’s no team in the NFL that’s more familiar with the routine of flying overseas and getting ready to play a game. That might be part of the reason why the Jags have won three of their last four games at Wembley. After playing the Texans almost even in Week 2, I think Jacksonville finds a way to win another close game this week.
As usual, the key for the Jags is with Fournette and their running game. The Texans have been solid against the run most of the season and held Fournette in check back in Week 2. However, Minshew is more of a threat than he was in that game. The rookie quarterback is far more comfortable with more than a handful of starts under his belt and the Jags are more comfortable with him running the offense. Minshew has also proven to be at his best when he’s moving around outside the pocket, which can make him a handful for opposing defenses.
Meanwhile, the Houston defense has a huge to fill this week after losing J.J. Watt to a season-ending injury last game. Watt has been a huge part of the team’s pass rush this year and opens up opportunities for other players by constantly demanding double teams. In other words, losing Watt is a huge hit for the Houston pass rush, which could have a huge impact on the Texans, who are already struggling to defend the pass.
On the other side of the ball, the Jacksonville defense had a good handle on Deshaun Watson and the Texans when they met in Week 2. Houston has success running the ball, but Watson was limited to just 159 passing yards, in part because he was sacked four times. The Jaguars have 29 sacks in eight games this season, so I expect them to continue to put pressure on Watson. It’s also worth noting that Will Fuller is set to miss this game due to injury. With Kenny Stills being a little hit and miss this year, the Texans could be lacking targets in the passing game outside of DeAndre Hopkins.
To be honest, this is a tossup game that could go either way. But I think Jacksonville’s experience playing in London means something. I also have no problem putting a little bit of faith in Minshew, especially against a defense that’s given up at least 24 points in four straight games. I’m taking a chance on the Jags as underdogs in this game.