Jacksonville was in Houston’s position last season, having one of the worst rosters in the NFL and finishing with a 1-15 record. The Jaguars selected Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick and brought Urban Meyer out of retirement to be the franchise’s next head coach — the two pillars responsible for transforming the franchise into a winner. Lawrence, arguably the most hyped quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, will make his NFL debut in Week 1 while Meyer makes his NFL head coaching debut.
Houston is in the stage of the rebuild Jacksonville endured last year. Deshaun Watson has been relegated to the fourth-string quarterback spot as he is facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct in massage sessions. While his immediate future is uncertain, the Texans will go with Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback. David Culley is also making his NFL debut as a head coach after spending 27 years as an assistant in the league. Houston, which did not have a first-round pick the past two seasons as a result of “win now” trades, is a contender for the No. 1 overall pick this year. The Texans arguably have one of the worst rosters in football.
Here’s a preview of this AFC South Week 1 showdown:
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James Robinson vs. Texans run defense
The Jaguars don’t have the best offensive line, but Robinson was still able to rush for 1,070 yards — tied for fifth in the NFL. Robinson’s 1,414 scrimmage yards were the most by an undrafted rookie in NFL history, as the Jaguars relied on him to carry one of the league’s worst offenses in 2020.
The Texans had an abysmal run defense last year, allowing the most rushing yards per game (160.3) and the highest yards per carry (5.2) in the league. New defensive coordinator Lovie Smith and his Tampa-2 scheme will look to change that.
Robinson shockingly averaged just 73.5 rushing yards per game (3.9 yards per carry) in two matchups against Houston last year. With Lawrence at quarterback, expect things to open up for Robinson against a run defense that has a lot to prove.
Tyrod Taylor vs. Jaguars pass defense
Taylor will be making his first start for the Texans in place of Watson, which changes things drastically for Houston’s offense. Watson carved up the Jaguars secondary last season, throwing for 640 yards and five touchdowns in two games against a secondary that allowed 264.4 pass yards per game last season (27th in the NFL).
Taylor is more of a threat with his legs, averaging just 207.9 passing yards in his 47 career starts. He also has added 25.7 yards per game on the ground. The Texans are going to prioritize the run with Taylor and a running back committee of David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, and Mark Ingram this year. The Jaguars have improved their secondary with Shaquill Griffin, Tyson Campbell, Andre Cisco, while Rayshawn Jenkins, C.J. Henderson and Andrew Wingard will be in the starting lineup as Campbell and Cisco provide depth Jacksonville didn’t have in the secondary last year.
Houston would be wise to test the new Jacksonville secondary early, having Taylor throw 25-plus attempts.
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Latest Odds: Houston Texans +3
Caesars Sportsbook has the Jaguars as 3-point favorites with an over/under of 45.0, which isn’t a surprise given how Jacksonville’s offense scored the third-fewest points in the league in 2020 and Houston’s offense took a significant hit with no Watson and the departures of wide receivers Will Fuller and Randall Cobb in free agency.
This is a perfect opportunity for Meyer to showcase Lawrence in his first NFL start, using the opportunity to sling the football to Marvin Jones, D.J. Chark and Laviska Shenault at wide receiver. Lawrence should be able to have a wildly successful day against the Texans pass defense, especially if Meyer is able to get Robinson going.
Jim Plunkett (1971), John Elway (1983) and David Carr (2002) are the only No. 1 overall picks to start at quarterback and win in Week 1 of their rookie season in the Super Bowl era. Since 2009, No. 1 overall picks that are quarterbacks are 0-6-1 straight up and 1-6 against the spread. That trend ends Sunday as Meyer and Lawrence get their first win. Take Jacksonville to cover and the under.
Pick: Jaguars 27, Texans 17
Check out CBSSports.com for even more predictions on this game and the rest of Week 1