The Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars are poised to face off in Week 2 after very different Week 1 ballgames. The AFC showdown is the first glimpse of the Texans on the road, and a chance to see if QB Blaine Gabbert and Co. can bounce back from a gut-wrenching OT loss to Minnesota.
This isn't the same Jacksonville team that was an easy "W" last season. Gabbert played his best NFL game to start the season, and Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 77 yards without any training camp or preseason action.
But Houston is the projected division winner, and to hold that title for consecutive seasons they're going to have to rely on big guns Arian Foster and Matt Schaub in winnable road games like this one. Here's everything you need to know about the first meeting between the two rivals this season.
Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
When: Sunday, Sept. 16, at 1 p.m. EST
TV: CBS (check local listings)
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Spread: Texans -7.5 (via Bovada)
After a convincing 30-10 wallop of the Miami Dolphins in Week 1, Houston will have to immediately tighten the screws in several areas if they want to have a shot at the same kind of result in Florida.
Gabbert isn't Tom Brady, but he showed on opening Sunday he's better than he was last season, and the Texans secondary is going to have their hands full with Jacksonville's receiving corp.
Who will win this matchup?
Still, too much Foster and Ben Tate for Houston, who get a couple of big plays from the tight ends to hold on for the late victory. Houston covers.
Over/Under: 41.5 (via Bovada)
Look for more offensive firepower than many think in this one. Jacksonville allowed Adrian Peterson to find the end zone twice in his debut after injury, and Miami was able to rush for five yards per carry with Reggie Bush.
Two All-Pro caliber running backs will be facing off, and if each team can establish the run early, it could mean a big day in the passing department, as both will load the box to stop Foster and MJD.
Take the over, as concerns over Houston's defense might creep up after Jacksonville stays in this game with their new weapons on offense.
LB Brian Cushing, ribs, Questionable
RB Arian Foster, illness, Probable
NT Shaun Cody, back, Probable
CB Jonathan Joseph, illness, Probable
DE J.J. Watt, elbow, Probable
DT Michael Brockers, ankle, Questionable
DT Matthew Conrath, knee, Questionable
DT Darrell Scott, knee, Questionable
WR Austin Pettis, suspension, Out until Week 3
Fantasy Big Plays
Jacksonville: RB Maurice Jones-Drew
He was able to rack up 77 yards in limited action, and with the starter's job securely under his belt for Week 2, he should have an expanded role in limiting the mistakes Blaine Gabbert can make against the experienced Texans squad.
After Houston let Reggie Bush run for five yards per carry and gave up two big plays to shifty running backs in the special teams game, there's no reason to think MJD can't put up 100 yards and score big this week in your RB1 spot.
Predicted Stats: 21 carries, 128 yards, 1 TD, 3 catches, 43 yards
Houston: TE Owen Daniels
Daniels had a solid fantasy week for a tight end in Week 1, catching four balls for 87 yards and no scores. I see much of the same from Schaub's security blanket in this one, especially with Houston's lack of depth in the passing game.
Jacksonville will send double teams towards Andre Johnson all game, although that's never been an indication of his performance. Still, the smart money is on a No. 2 option to emerge in the passing game, and my bet is Daniels, especially after seeing Kyle Rudolph torch the Jags' secondary in Week 1.
Predicted Stats: 5 catches, 98 yards, 1 TD
Key to Jaguars Win: Secondary
To beat Houston, Jacksonville is going to have to rely on their front seven, with help from the safeties, to shut down the two-headed monster of Foster and Tate. To do that successfully, Jacksonville's corners are going to be on an island in coverage.
Those opportunities should make or break the game for the Jags. One-on-one matchups with Johnson, Kevin Walter and Daniels will be key to keeping the Texans offense off-balance, and hopefully off the field.
Key to Texans Win: Force Turnovers
One of the best defenses at getting the ball back for their offense in 2011 was Houston, and they got off to a great start against Miami in that department, forcing four Dolphins takeaways.
To beat a hungry Jags team, they'll need to do much of the same, especially after watching Gabbert control the pace and flow of the game in his first start. Getting pressure will be big for the Texans' front seven, and someone will have to step up if Cushing is unable to go on Sunday.
Miami probably makes it a close game if they didn't turn the ball over four times, so if Houston wants to leave town with a victory, they'll find a way to get the ball back for Foster, Schaub and the offense.
Houston is a tough team, and their defense will stiffen up on the road against a very underrated opponent. I think Gabbert surprises some people, and Jacksonville's offense takes some positive steps in the right direction with their two franchise players.
Predicted Final Score: Houston 33, Jacksonville 24