From a narrative perspective, this game is wildly entertaining.
The 2021 No. 1 overall draft pick will make his NFL debut, and Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence is expected to be a transcendent talent. Meanwhile, Houston’s Deshaun Watson — an incredible talent in his own right — is inundated in off-the-field controversies. As such, veteran QB Tyrod Taylor will start in his place.
However, from a talent perspective, this game isn’t quite as interesting. Both teams are going through transitory periods in the front office and in the coaching staff, while both rosters are filled with holes.
With that said, even in a game like this, there’s usually an angle we can find that provides value.
Let’s dig into this matchup and find some worthwhile wagers.
Best Bet: Jaguars -3 (-115) at BetMGM
For in-depth analysis on this NFL bet of the day and others, continue reading.
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Jaguars vs. Texans Prediction
The Jaguars are going to be a completely new team in 2021, and pre-season expectations are high. Meanwhile, the Texans are going to look completely different as well, but for all the wrong reasons.
Houston’s team is driven by their offensive attack, which is almost single-handedly powered by Watson. With Taylor under center, the Texans offense is going to perform significantly worse than their No. 13 ranked Offense DVOA (per Football Outsiders) suggests.
To hopefully compensate for that, first year Head Coach David Culley will lean on the Houston defense, which finished at No. 30 in both Defense DVOA and total yards allowed.
Houston fans should not be looking forward to the upcoming season, but they should keep a glass-half-full attitude for the franchise’s future. Hiring Nick Caserio as General Manager is considered a wise move, and he immediately improved the roster by adding RB Phillip Lindsay and DB Desmond King.
Meanwhile, Jaguars fans are in the complete opposite situation. Jacksonville cannot wait for Lawrence to take the first snap and start a new era in the franchise’s future.
However, I’m not quite as high on the team’s prospects. Urban Meyer is a suspect choice for head coach, No. 25 overall pick Travis Etienne suffered a season-ending injury, and I’m unsure if the front office did enough to improve a defense that finished at No. 31 in Defense DVOA in 2020.
But those are longer-term issues, and the Jaguars need to focus on only one advantage in their Week 1 matchup: Jacksonville has its starting quarterback, while Houston does not. This is very much reflected in the NFL gameday odds.
Without Watson, the Texans are sitting ducks for almost any NFL roster. There’s no other unit on Houston’s roster that’s above average, and they are especially weak in the secondary and on the offensive line.
Although Jacksonville isn’t a great football team, they’ve made some under-the-radar moves that have improved the roster depth. Plus, getting Lawrence at less than a field goal against the Watson-less Texans is a no-brainer pick.
Betting Pick: Jaguars 20, Texans 10
Jaguars vs Texans Best Bets
Best Bet: Jaguars -3 (-115) at BetMGM
For all the reasons mentioned above, I really like the Jaguars in this spot. Watson is a top-five quarterback in the NFL, but there isn’t a single other unit on Houston’s roster that’s a plus.
The most important personnel matchup in this game will be Houston’s rush attack against the Jacksonville rush defense. The Texans’ offensive line finished at N0. 27 in Football Outsiders adjusted line yards last season, while the Jacksonville front seven showed some promise by finishing at No. 19 in Rush Defense DVOA.
So, I’m expecting the Texans rush attack to have zero success in this game. If that’s the case, Houston is going to find themselves in a lot of third-and-longs without Watson under center — a situation that doesn’t bode well for the Texans.
While I hate betting road favorites, taking Jacksonville by a field goal feels like easy money in this spot, which makes it the pick of the day.
Best Bet: Under 46 (-110) at DraftKings
I’m already low on Houston’s offense, considering the change at quarterback. However, let’s also consider the Jacksonville offense, which will be operating under a new regime with a rookie quarterback.
For the Jacksonville offense, there’s nowhere to go but up, considering they finished No. 27 in Offense DVOA and total offensive yards in 2020. However, there’s also plenty of room for speculation, surrounding Meyer, Lawrence, and the rest of the offensive personnel.
But it’s not just my intuition that’s pushing me toward the Under. The total has gone under in five of the last six games between these division rivals.
I’m expecting more of the same in this Week 1 matchup, which makes it a smart bet to add in the NFL pick of the day series.
Jaguars vs. Texans Same Game Parlay Picks
Phillip Lindsay Under 44.5 Rushing Yards
It’s true that Lindsay was splitting reps with Melvin Gordon in 2020. In fact, Lindsay had just 118 rush attempts to Gordon’s 215.
However, Lindsay had an awful end to the season. Despite going over 9.5 rush attempts in four of his final five games, he hit over 44.5 rush yards just once during that stretch.
He’s the No. 1 consensus back in Houston, but he’s splitting carries with David Johnson and is doing so behind the worst offensive line in football.
Lindsay already was underperforming and is now put in a tougher situation. He may get the lion’s share of the carries, but he certainly won’t pile up the yards.
Brandin Cooks Over 54.5 Receiving Yards
As Houston’s pitiful offensive line makes moving the ball impossible, we’re going to be seeing a lot of passing plays from Tyrod Taylor and Co.
But who is he going to throw to? Outside of a 36-year-old Danny Amendola, his only option is going to be Cooks.
Which explains why Cooks dominated down the stretch last season. Cooks had over 4.5 receptions in eight of his final 10 games, and he went over 54.5 receiving yards in nine of those final 10 games.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars finished 31st in Pass Defense DVOA and 20th in that stat against #1 WRs.
And Cooks is going to be far-and-away the No. 1 receiver on the staff. Tyrod Taylor isn’t a good quarterback, but he’s competent and will be forced to throw a lot in this game, and I’m expecting him to throw to Cooks a whole lot.
As mentioned in my best bet portion, I like the Jaguars to dominate this game. However, the Jaguars winning also helps the other two legs of this parlay.
If the Texans are trailing later in the game, they’ll be forced to use less of Lindsay in the running game and more of Cooks in the passing game.
Thus, if this game plays out as I expect it to, then this parlay is a steal at 3/1 odds.