TEXANS // JAGUARS OVERVIEW
These division opponents have been moving in opposite directions the last few weeks, with the Texans carrying a three-game winning streak into this game and the Jaguars trying to stop a two game skid. In a tight division, this game will be a meaningful and high-effort affair. Vegas has given the nod to the home team, as the Jaguars have opened as five-point favorites, with a low Over/Under in this game of 41.5.
This Over/Under may prove to be a bit low, as these are two of the fastest-paced teams in the NFL — with the Texans ranking fourth in pace of play and the Jags ranking fifth. Houston ranks sixth in plays per game, and the Jags rank 13th. Houston also allows an above-average number of opponent plays per game, while the Jags rank middle of the pack.
Each team is slightly below-average at sustaining drives, while each team is above-average at preventing successful drives, creating a game environment that can lead to extra punts, and to the ball changing hands more often — an advantageous setup for rostering DST units, as such game environments open opportunities for extra mistakes, turnovers, and splash plays on special teams.
TEXANS PASS OFFENSE
One of the big struggles for the Jaguars on defense this year has been their pass rush, as they rank 17th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate, one year after ranking second. This is making it easier for receivers to shake free just enough for quarterbacks to make tight window throws, leading to the Jags ranking near the middle of the league in aDOT allowed, while allowing a slightly higher catch rate (60%) than they allowed last year (57%). The Jags are still the best team in football at preventing yards after the catch, and only five teams have allowed fewer fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. The Jaguars rank first in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, while Houston’s offensive line ranks 30th in adjusted line yards — giving Jacksonville a chance to get their pass rush back on track. Only Cleveland has taken more sacks on the season.
In two games against the Jags last year, DeAndre Hopkins went 7-55-1 on a whopping 16 targets and 4-80-1 on another massive load of 13 targets. Deshaun Watson only played part of the first game, and none of the second — but this remains one of the toughest draws in football.
The Texans tend to hammer passes to Hopkins in difficult matchups — essentially betting that their best player has the best shot at beating a good defense. As such, volume may continue to be an issue for Will Fuller (recent target counts of five, three, and three). Long-term, I’m not concerned about Fuller, as he has had three consecutive matchups that set up poorly for his skill set and role; but this is yet another matchup that falls into that category, making him nothing more than a dart throw.
Keke Coutee continues to be schemed the ball behind the line of scrimmage (two of his five targets last week came behind the LOS), with his route tree expanding the last couple weeks to get him some downfield looks as well. His speed plays well with the ball in his hands, but it’s still a difficult draw.
Behind these guys, Ryan Griffin saw five targets last week, in a matchup we highlighted as one that would likely filter looks his way, with Griffin’s inefficiency being the only question mark. He turned those five targets into zero receptions — the second time he has done that in a positive matchup this year.
TEXANS RUN OFFENSE
The Jaguars have dominated the NFL in run defense…except while playing Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott. It goes without saying that Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue are not in the same class as Saquon and Zeke.
Houston ranks 25th in adjusted line yards this year on offense, while lead back Miller is averaging only 3.7 yards per carry. Miller saw 17 touches last week, while Alfred Blue saw nine. Typically in this spot, I would say that either guy will need a broken play or a multi-touchdown game in order to post a strong DFS score, but even a “broken play” is unlikely to materialize for major upside, given the speed this Jaguars defense boasts. Either guy will need a multi-touchdown game to rub shoulders with Week 7 relevance.
JAGUARS PASS OFFENSE
Since playing the Patriots in Week 1, the Texans’ pass defense has had a pillow-soft schedule, taking on Blaine Gabbert and the Titans, Eli Manning and the Giants, a hampered Colts squad, the poor passing attack of the Cowboys, and the train wreck Bills. This makes it difficult to get a true read on just how good (or just how attackable) they might be, but for now — entering another soft matchup, vs Blake Bortles and the Jags — we can lean on the data we have to date, which shows the Texans as a middling pass defense that is getting more pressure on the quarterback than their pure sack numbers show.
We are beginning to get a good feel for where targets are going to go on the Jaguars in certain matchups, given how each receiver is being deployed. The Texans play a lot of man coverage, and while T.Y. Hilton (in limited snaps) is the only receiver who has really been able to test this team deep, he was able to shake free for some downfield receptions, and was able to use his downfield threat to run defensive backs off his routes before curling back or running a deep out. These are the routes the Jaguars have been using Keelan Cole and Donte Moncrief on, making them more likely to see targets pile up than Dede Westbrook, who is being used more on crossing routes and underneath looks. This is not a great passing offense, and the matchup is average to below-average for Blake Bortles and company, but Cole, in particular, has reliable big-play upside if on-target looks come his way.
After the Jags had almost no time with the ball last week vs the Cowboys, we should expect to see Bortles’ pass attempts rise back to the 33 to 38 range (he has been in that range in three of six games — with a pair of outlier “spiked weeks” vs the high-powered attacks of KC and New England, and with only 26 attempts last week vs the ball-control Cowboys), which should still leave five to seven targets for Westbrook if the Texans attack downfield with Cole and Moncrief — and there is also a chance the Jags see something that makes Dede the focus this week. On a week like this, none of these guys are “reliable,” but they all warrant a mention.
With Niles Paul joining Austin Seferian-Jenkins on I.R., James O’Shaughnessy is the last man standing at tight end for the Jags. Four to six “catch and fall” targets should be his expected range here.
JAGUARS RUN OFFENSE
Houston has continued to be one of the toughest teams to run on this year (third in yards allowed per carry), and the Jags’ run offense has gone into the tank without Leonard Fournette. Fournette may return this week — in which case (assuming he is fully healthy and ready for his typical role), he would become the engine of the offense, as a near every-down back who would be locked into 20+ touches (with pass game work mixed in), in a difficult matchup — making him a low-floor, high-ceiling play. (The floor is especially lowered by risk that the Jags could go easy on him in his first game back.) A Fournette return would almost certainly render T.J. Yeldon unusable.
If Fournette misses again, Yeldon will continue to fill in. He has yet to top 60 rushing yards in a game this year, and this would be a poor spot for him to buck that trend, but he has target counts on the year of seven, five, seven, three, 10, and five. Houston is average against pass-catching running backs. Yeldon has a respectable 10 touches in the red zone this year.
This game doesn’t appear to have anything that will catch my eye this week. Obviously, Deshaun Watson is one of a small number of guys with enough upside to be placed in the “always consider in tourneys” bucket — but this is a massively difficult spot, behind a poor offensive line, in an offense that is more “talent” than “scheme.”
The best bet for relevance on the Texans’ side of the ball is Hopkins, as he is almost guaranteed to see a massive workload. I’ll honestly be surprised if he posts a truly disappointing game — but it will be difficult for him to pop off for the sort of week-winning score we should be targeting in his price range. I like him in large-field tourneys if ownership projects to be low, simply because there aren’t many NFL players who can hit for 25+ FanDuel points or 30+ DraftKings/FantasyDraft points, and he remains one of those guys — even in a difficult matchup. Obviously, that upside is far from guaranteed to hit.
You could make a speed- and talent-based case for Fuller and Keke, but I won’t be there myself. There are simply much better plays on the slate.
The Jags’ offense is too much of a mess for me to want to touch it.
I do like each defense — with special emphasis on the Jags, taking on a quarterback in Watson who A) takes sacks, and B) takes risks. It’s reasonable to expect Jacksonville to rack up a fair number of sacks, with one or two turnovers added in.