Game Overview ::
By HILOW >>
- For all intents and purposes, the Jaguars play a meaningless game in Week 17 against the Texans (the Titans and Jaguars play a winner-take-all Week 18 matchup for the divisional title).
- That said, and although a long shot, the Jaguars could theoretically back into the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC with a win this week and a loss to the Titans in Week 18 (just a 6% chance of happening).
- The Texans have played much better defensively of late, ranking as a top-three unit per DVOA over the previous five weeks.
- Travis Etienne and Zay Jones, in particular, are set up well to take advantage of Houston’s defensive deficiencies, assuming they play a full allotment of snaps.
- Not a ton to love from the Houston side of the ball regardless of whether or not the Jags play their starters for a normal allotment of snaps.
How Jacksonville Will Try To Win ::
There’s a lot going on here, plain and simple. On one hand, Doug Pederson spoke Tuesday about not wanting to rest his guys for a meaningless game and his team is extremely young, opening up the door to the Jaguars operating from a “business as usual” standpoint. On the other hand, Doug Pederson rested his starters in a meaningless game prior to the postseason when with the Eagles. Basically, we could see everything from full snap rates for the primary skill position players, to lightened loads for the big men up front and Travis Etienne (the players that take the most consistent abuse – shoutout to Mikey for bringing this possibility up), to primary players playing the first half and sitting the second, to skill position players sitting entirely. Yea, happy, happy, joy, joy (shoutout to the Ren and Stimpy fans in the room!). With all of that in mind, we have a pretty clear picture regarding how the Jaguars are likeliest to attack if at full strength as the team has exhibited fantasy friendly tendencies of late, playing at an elevated pace of play (seventh fastest first half pace of play) with a more concentrated offense than they started the year with amongst Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Evan Engram, and Travis Etienne. Furthermore, six of their top eight games in pass rate over expectation (PROE) have come over the previous six weeks and the team has moved away from the backfield committee it started the season with, in favor of a pure workhorse and change of pace setup (Travis Etienne in the workhorse role with JaMycal Hasty in the change of pace role). Head coach and offensive mastermind Doug Pederson is one of the more forward-leaning offensive minds in the game, capable of both game planning and game management. If we take his words from this week at face value, expect an aggressive game plan from the jump as this team is much more effective when playing with a lead, where they can keep the offense away from one-dimensionality.
As mentioned above, this backfield is now Travis Etienne’s following the mid-season departure of James Robinson. His pass game involvement remains “non-elite but floor-boosting” in the sense that he has not seen more than three targets in a game since Week 7, but his red zone role and overall volume have increased dramatically since the departure of Robinson. To emphasize that point, Etienne ranks fourth amongst running backs in red zone carries this season at 39 (more than Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Josh Jacobs, and Joe Mixon, to name a few) yet has only four rushing scores. This week he plays a Texans team that has allowed the most rushing scores in the league at 18 (through 15 games played). The pure rushing matchup yields a slightly above average 4.43 net-adjusted line yards metric in what should be considered one of the premier rushing matchups in the NFL.
Houston’s defense is a bit of an enigma, no more so than with their pass defense. They have held opponents to a below average 63.54% completion rate but have faced the 10th deepest defensive aDOT. They have also managed to allow only five receiving touchdowns to wide receivers all season, which is two less than the second place Broncos. I can’t find any reason why that is nothing more than variance (and likely due in large part to the fact that teams have simply been able to run all over them this season), but it is startling, nonetheless. The low blitz rates and elevated zone coverages have allowed opponents to rip them deep all season, with spotty pressure rates up front allowing receivers the time to find the holes in the zone. All of that is important because it should serve to narrow the expected ranges of outcomes for the primary pass-catchers on the Jaguars offense, with Christian Kirk and Evan Engram sporting much higher yards per route run values against man coverage (2.33 for Kirk and 1.91 for Engram) this season than they have against zone (1.71 for Kirk and 1.39 for Engram), whereas Zay Jones leads the team in targets, receptions, and has seen the deepest aDOT of the three against zone (and has scored four touchdowns against zone versus one against man). Marvin Jones has become somewhat of an afterthought in this offense, going as far as ceding snaps to Tim Jones and Jamal Agnew since the team’s Week 11 bye.