In a topsy-turvy, and mostly abject, AFC South, the Houston Texans are all-but assured of being the team the AFC South sends to the playoffs. All that stands in their way are rivals Jacksonville, and a few other scenarios. Houston welcome back quarterback Brian Hoyer, who has missed the past few games due to a severe concussion. In the merry-go-round that has been the quarterback position in Houston, the fourth starter, Brandon Weeden, led them to two vital victories against the Colts and Titans. He will now see if Hoyer can take the reigns back and secure the Texans a winning record. The Jaguars have had another frustrating year, although one born with seeds of optimism. The offense has been one of the most potent in the NFL during 2015, with Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and T.J Yeldon playing key roles in the Jaguars five victories. If the defense can ascend like the offense, then the Jaguars will be a team to watch in years to come. They will be looking to get one over their division rivals on Sunday.
Three keys to the game:
Can Hoyer last?
As aforementioned, Brian Hoyer returns to the starting lineup for the Texans after a concussion. It will be vital to the Texans chances in the playoffs that they do not have to resort to another backup again, so Hoyer will need to have his smarts about him to not take too many unnecessary risks or big hits.
Can the Texans D slow the Jaguars offense?
This will be an exciting game between two of the NFL’s premier units. The Jaguars seem to put 300+ passing yards on the board week-in, week-out these days, while the Texans have probably the best defensive player in a generation courtesy of J.J Watt. If Watt can rattle the Jaguars offensive line and pressure Bortles, he will come unstuck and force the ball, leading to turnovers. If Watt can be kept quiet, then the Jaguars explosive receivers will have their way with a mismatched Texans secondary.
Changing of the guard in the AFC South?
For a long while, the Indianapolis Colts were the top dogs in the AFC South. 2015 has seen that all change though. The Texans beat them in Indy for the first time ever, while the Jaguars put 50 point on them a few weeks back. The new guard in Houston and Jacksonville will want to display that the 2015 season is not a fluke for their franchises, and that they will be more than a match for the Colts for years to come.
Match-up to watch: Blake Bortles vs himself
Now, this may seem cruel, but let me explain. The epitome of Jaguars football has been for so long snatching defeat when victory is in reach. Nothing displays that more aptly than Bortles. Just when the Jaguars seem to be onto a scoring drive or winning, Bortles has the tendency to give the ball up and undo all his hard work. Yes, he has cut down on his turnovers from 2014, but he needs to display a calmer head in order to truly ascend to franchise quarterback status. He has already shown us the arm talent, the mobility and the durability. Now he needs to display the maturity. If he remains turnover free, the Jaguars will win.
Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars
I have confidence in my convictions. Bortles will have no turnovers and the Jaguars will eek out a victory over the Texans, who wrap up the AFC South anyway and advance to the playoffs. Everyone is a winner!