No one is expecting too much from the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Houston Texans this season, so maybe it's a good thing they're getting the first of two meetings this year out of the way in Week 1. Unlike the Texans, the Jaguars actually have hope for the future. With Urban Meyer running the show, Trevor Lawrence as the franchise quarterback, an underrated set of young skill players, and a decent defense, things are looking up on the Atlantic side of the Sunshine State.
Sadly, the same thing can't be said for the Texans. With Deshaun Watson's looming legal troubles, a black cloud is cast over anything and everything the franchise does. Even if Watson was available, he doesn't want to play in Houston. And to make things worse, the franchise has absolutely zero direction under CEO and chairman Cal McNair, who infamously hired the team's pastor to be the new VP of Football Operations. I sure hope new (and rookie) head coach David Culley knows what he's got himself into.
Jacksonville at Houston
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 12 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Jacksonville -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Welcome to the league, coach
While Culley and Meyer are both first-year NFL head coaches, their situations could not be any more different.
Culley is walking into an absolute mess of a franchise and an almost impossible situation to succeed. With Watson's legal issues, a franchise with zero proven leadership, and no obvious long-term rebuilding plan, Culley's job with the Texans might just be an audition for future NFL gigs. How he handles what seems like an overtly bleak situation in Houston will not only say a lot about his character but his future NFL prospects. Best of luck to him.
As for Meyer, he was hired in Jacksonville to protect and develop the franchise's future in Lawrence. Meyer's ability to recruit and develop talent at the college level was obvious, but how he relates to and develops professional athletes remains to be seen. So far, Meyer can't seem to stop getting in his own way — which at this point in his career, that's kind of his thing.
Related: Jacksonville Jaguars' Urban Renewal
He signed a 30-something minor league baseball player who hadn't played pro football in almost a decade, to play tight end, a position he never played before, and then cut him after the first preseason game. He hired a former college strength coach who was fired from his previous job for making overtly racist comments. He was fined (as well as the team) $300,000 for improper organized team activities prior to training camp. He's apparently treating practices like college practices compete with bullhorns and loudspeakers to get on to players. He traded away the only quarterback on his roster who has proven he's at least decent at the NFL level. And now the NFLPA is launching an investigation after Meyer's comments about cutting players that aren't vaccinated.
I'm not saying Meyer has already lost his locker room or won't succeed in Jacksonville. Not by a long shot. But what I am saying is that if the results don't show on the field, at least in terms of player progression, his voice may be tuned out sooner rather than later.
2. Trevor Lawrence
This year's No. 1 overall pick is largely considered the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. And so far, Lawrence has lived up to the billing. Granted, I'm basing this off preseason performance, and we all know that preseason counts as much as video game stats. But Lawrence's general understanding of the Jags' offense was evident from the jump, and he got more comfortable as the preseason wore on. In the preseason finale, he completed 11 of his 12 attempts for 139 yards and two touchdowns, and all while four of the five starting offensive linemen were out with injuries.
Sunday, the game and the stats count, and Lawrence couldn't have been dealt a better hand facing off against the worst defense in the league from 2020. The Texans were 31st in passer rating allowed and 32nd in opponent completion percentage last season. In short, they got picked apart all year. To make matters worse, Houston's front office, in all their infinite wisdom, did very little to remedy the defensive situation in the offseason.
With a decent core of receivers in DJ Chark Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr., and the newly acquired Marvin Jones Jr., and 1,000-yard rusher James Robinson returning (although fellow first-round pick and Clemson teammate Travis Etienne will be missed), Lawrence has plenty of weapons to help get his feet wet in his first game.
3. Tyrod's team
With Watson out indefinitely, the Houston Texans are now Tyrod Taylor's team. And for the first time in his career, Taylor doesn't have to look over his shoulder at his backup as he leads his team from the starting role.
Taylor's numbers aren't flashy, but they are far from bad, too. His record as a starter is a mediocre 24-21-1, but his career completion percentage is a healthy 61 percent. Sure, that 61 percent is probably only that high because he doesn't throw downfield very often, only averaging seven yards per attempt, but that also means he isn't forcing balls into coverage. He only threw 16 interceptions in three full seasons in Buffalo compared to 51 touchdowns. Considering the Bills teams he played on and the receivers he was throwing to, that's not too shabby.
While Taylor protects the ball through the air, he does have a tendency to put it on the turf. He fumbled 17 times in those Buffalo years. He was also sacked 124 times, leading the league in 2016 with 42. That could still be a problem in Houston, as the Texans' offensive line has allowed Watson to get creamed a league-high 174 times since he came into the league in 2017. When he's not running for his life, look for Taylor to try and find Brandin Cooks in catch-and-run situations to try and move the ball against the Jags.
While neither team is expected to do too much anything this season, Jacksonville has the clear advantage in this game on both sides of the ball.
Prediction: Jaguars 28, Texans 20
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.