For the 14th time over the past two seasons, a home team is tagged as the underdog for a Thursday game.
This time it’s Houston playing at Jacksonville in this Week 14 encounter. Those underdogs have gone 4-8-1 against the spread, but are 3-0-1 the past four games including Atlanta’s close-call loss to visiting New Orleans two weeks ago.
This game has a wrinkle. For the first time this season, the Thursday home ‘dog has a better record than the visitor. Plus, it was on Nov. 24 that the Jaguars beat the Texans in Houston 13-6.
On top of that, it has been written that the Jaguars remain alive for a postseason berth, which apparently isn’t a work of fiction. The Texans, meanwhile, couldn’t be more dead after their eighth straight loss last week to New England.
Now for a closer look at this game. The line is provided by the Las Vegas Hotel SuperBook.
NFL FOOTBALL – THURSDAY, DEC. 5
Houston Texans (2-10) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9)
Line: Texans by 3 (43½)
Facts: After a 0-8 start to the season, the Jaguars came out of their bye to win three of four, including two as a double-digit road underdog. Over the past two seasons, there have been only five other double-digit ‘dogs winning straight up. Despite the surge, the Jags still are at the bottom in total offense.
These teams are playing games against each other only 11 days apart, the tightest window for any division rivals this year. But that’s no big deal. In the 1920s, teams often played home-and-home series on back-to-back days.
The Texans are reeling from their 34-31 home loss to the Patriots, blowing a 17-7 halftime lead in the process. If it’s any consolation, teams are 7-4 ATS their next game after facing Tom Brady and his men this season. Houston DE J.J. Watt has a team-high 9.5 sacks, but that’s still 11 shy of his 2012 total
Analysis: In that recent meeting, the Texans had a season-low 11 first downs and appeared disinterested, whereas the Jags seemed energized by gung-ho rookie coach Gus Bradley. And that was on the road. Houston also may enter short-handed, since RB Ben Tate, who had three rushing TDs last week, is questionable with rib and ankle problems. Top DB Johnathan Joseph also is questionable (groin).
Sure, the Texans might find reason to take a break from chugging Eggnog to play with pride, sort of how the Falcons did it last week in Toronto for no apparent reason. But beating a Jaguars team wouldn’t even put a feather in their helmet.
Forecast: Jaguars 20, Texans 13
“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at [email protected].