JAGUARS // TEXANS OVERVIEW
One year has made quite a difference in the AFC South. Less than 12 months after the Jaguars should have won the AFC Championship game, they carry a 5-10 record into their Week 17 showdown with the Texans — a game the schedule-makers surely hoped would determine the fate of the division. Instead, the Jags are the one team in the South playing for nothing, while the Texans have everything to play for this weekend. A win this week for Houston secures the division title and at least one home game in the playoffs — with opportunity to move up to the 2 seed (and a first-round bye) if they pair a win with a Patriots loss. If the Texans lose, however, the winner of the Colts vs Titans game will take down the division, and the Texans will plunge to the 6 seed and will have to take their show on the road in the first week of the playoffs. The Jags have been a low-effort team for much of the last two months, but they should be able to get up for the final game of the season — creating an unattractive DFS spot outside of guess-and-hope shots, with the Jags’ poor offense and the Jags’ strong defense both dragging down expectations for this game environment as a whole. This game carries a dull Over/Under of 40.5, with the Texans installed as touchdown favorites.
JAGUARS PASS OFFENSE
The Texans have been a middling pass defense throughout the year — ranking right in the thick of the pack in yards allowed per pass attempt, aDOT, catch rate, and YAC/R rate — though they have been closer to “attackable” than “middling” through the second half of the season, with only the Panthers allowing more yards on downfield passes through the second half of the year than the Texans have allowed, and with only three teams allowing a higher completion rate on such attempts. Expectations in this matchup are somewhat dimmed by the quarterback who will be attacking it, however, as Blake Bortles and his second-lowest average depth of target in the league will be under center this week, for what may be his last hurrah in a Jaguars uniform.
If choosing to attack in this spot, your best bet is to target this offense in large-field tourneys only, as this unit is low on quality scheming, low on quality quarterback play, and low on bankable effectiveness. You should also recognize that the Jaguars are likeliest to remain conservative — hoping to win with runs, short passes, turnover-free football, and solid defense — which means that Upside will likely require the Texans to jump out to a lead (i.e., large-field tourney rosters that bet on the Jags would also, optimally, bet on the Texans putting up points as well).
The one receiver who can have a case made for him regardless of scoring expectations in this game is Dede Westbrook, who has continued to play hard and to establish himself as a building block for this talent-rich, effort-low franchise. Dede plays 90% of his snaps in the slot and has a low aDOT of 8.1, requiring him to hit for a touchdown or a busted play to really reach upside; but he has at least remained useful and non-roster-wrecking most weeks.
The primary downfield roles on this offense belong to Donte Moncrief and D.J. Chark (if he returns this week after finally practicing on Wednesday), while Keelan Cole has remained an afterthought. All of these guys are nothing more than dart throws. The same goes for the tight end rotation of James O’Shaughnessy and Blake Bell (with Ben Koyack continuing to mix in for blocking duties as well).
JAGUARS RUN OFFENSE
Last week, we hypothesized — both in this space and in the Player Grid — that Leonard Fournette, as the clear and obvious franchise back for this organization, would bounce back up to a normal workload in Week 16, and that was exactly what happened, with his 49 snaps marking his second most of the season. Unfortunately, Fournette still looks something less than fully explosive, and he is running behind an injury-wrecked offensive line in a broken-down offense. The Texans have allowed the fewest yard per carry in the NFL, and only five teams have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns to enemy backs. If you want to go off the board, you could hang your hat on the Texans’ middling receiving production allowed to running backs, but Fournette remains a touchdown-dependent play for upside. If Fournette misses this game after not practicing on Wednesday, expectations for Carlos Hyde will be a bit lower than they would be for Fournette, with only his price making him a borderline-viable play in a bad offense, in a bad matchup, and with T.J. Yeldon sure to be active in that scenario to siphon pass game work.
TEXANS PASS OFFENSE
Jacksonville has continued to play tremendous pass defense, with only one team in football allowing a lower catch rate than the Jags, and with only three teams allowing fewer yards per pass attempt. No team in football has allowed fewer receptions to wide receivers; only one team has allowed fewer yards; no team has allowed fewer touchdowns. Jacksonville has not been much easier on quarterbacks, allowing the second fewest completions and the second fewest passing yards in the NFL. Only the Vikings have allowed fewer passing touchdowns. The only positive in this matchup for Deshaun Watson is that the Jaguars have been so stout against the pass, they have ended up giving away the most quarterback rushing yards in the NFL. The only positive in this matchup for DeAndre Hopkins is that he sees his targets regardless, with the second highest percentage share of team air yards in the league, and with the ninth most targets per game in the league. The last time these teams met, the Texans established a lead and then slowed down the clock and leaned on the ground game — with Watson completing only 12 of 24 passes for 139 yards (adding seven rushes for only 13 yards). In that game, Hopkins caught three of eight targets for 50 yards and a touchdown. The best bet for these players producing at a level commensurate with their price tags is for this game to somehow turn into a back-and-forth affair.
With Demaryius Thomas out, the Texans will hope to finally return Keke Coutee to the field, where he will step into a short-area role to compliment the downfield looks that Hopkins sees. His speed makes him a theoretically attractive Upside option, though he is still contending with the challenging matchup (and low projected volume) that the rest of this passing attack is dealing with.
If Coutee misses, it will be DeAndre Carter filling in underneath. Last week, Carter played 49 of a possible 65 snaps, running 40 pass routes and hauling in six of seven targets for 61 yards. As with Coutee: he’ll be an afterthought behind Hopkins, but he will see some looks in this game if Coutee misses — in a difficult matchup, and in a role that primarily offers underneath work.
This passing attack primarily flows through Hopkins first and the “WR2” second, leaving the three-man tight end rotation as dart-throw afterthoughts.
TEXANS RUN OFFENSE
Lamar Miller has not been a sexy play all season, but starting in Week 7 (the week the Texans beat the Jags in Jacksonville), Miller’s carry counts in games that were not shortened by injury have looked like this: 22 // 18 // 12 // 20 // 12 // 19 // 14. With receptions added in, his touch counts in this stretch go: 23 // 18 // 14 // 23 // 13 // 20 // 19.
Barring off-the-rails game flow or a continuation of Miller’s ankle injury, another 18 to 23 touches should be expected in this spot. The matchup — as noted all year — is not great against a Jaguars run defense that has been a top eight unit outside of occasional lapses in effort, but with the matchup “not great” across the board for this run-leaning offense, there is a solid chance for Miller to turn into a useful yardage-and-touchdown piece at the lower ends of the price range. When these teams last played, Miller picked up 100 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while “adding” minus one yard on one reception.
If Miller misses again this week, it will be Alfred Blue and D’Onta Foreman carrying the load once again, though neither would be a particularly safe or attractive option outside of simply guessing and hoping.
Even with some potential mass-multi-entry play on my plate this week, I won’t have much interest in this game myself. I don’t expect much from the Jaguars’ offense — and while some respectable scores could be captured, slate-winning games are extremely unlikely. As for the Texans: Watson and Hopkins are almost never “bad” plays, but at elevated price tags, their chances of blowing past the guys priced around them are more slim than the percentage at which they will likely be owned (I don’t expect either guy to be high-owned, but their name value still draws some level of ownership their way every week). It won’t be surprising if these two find a way to post a solid game, but a slate-winning score will be tough for them to come by, which will leave me hunting for upside in other spots. The offensive player who may be the most attractive is Miller, as he has a chance to provide strong price-considered value in this spot; though of course, he comes with his own risks — as there is no guarantee his ankle is 100% even if he is back on the field this week, and as the matchup is very clearly below-average.