A view from the Bye: The Texans stand tall on the Wembley turf to tee up a season defining stretch

A season for change, coming of age and renewed hope for an offence lead by a special talent who will need to be at his best on this three game run, if the Texans want to stamp their ticket to the play-off’s.

Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Houston Texans outside linebacker Brennan Scarlett (57), outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo (52), linebacker Dylan Cole (51), outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59), defensive back Keion Crossen (35), free safety Mike Adams (27),strong safety Jahleel Addae (37), strong safety Justin Reid (20), defensive back Cornell Armstrong (30), cornerback Gareon Conley (22) and inside linebacker Benardrick McKinney (55) celebrate after an interception in the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. The Texans defeated the Jaguars 26-3. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans regained their position at the summit of the AFC South with a commanding win against Jacksonville, in London. The mastery of the elusive Deshaun Watson and the revengeful running of Carlos Hyde put on a show in the final game of the NFL International series of the 2019 season, as both teams ardently head into their bye week but for very difference reasons.

Results will inevitably come with the level that this Houston offence is currently on, it’s more a question of how often. Consistency and health often defines a successful football team. But without a top-tier signal caller, your chances are greatly diminished. Luckily, Rick Smith left Houston with a bigger parting gift that anyone perhaps at the time realised. On Sunday, once again the mercurial Watson, exhibited to a Wembley crowd largely of neutrals, that he’s hard not to root for. Despite yet another reasonably slow first half, crippled by needless penalties and procedural errors. The disparity of talent levels between the two teams, as they game progressed, continued to show. The Texans tightened their grip on a game that at no point, did they ever look like losing, running out 26-3 winners and in all likelihood that margin flattered the hosts.

The Texans defence were given the bulk of the credit for holding a Jag’s defence to just a mere field goal last Sunday, which was a huge positive considering the loss of their star DE JJ Watt, the week prior. That was the biggest question coming into this game. How would the defensive front cope? How can you replace a three time defensive MVP with even a number of players? The answer was simple. Play tough, smart and disciplined football. The gap discipline was clinical for the Texans D, who kept a mobile quarterback in the pocket and forced him to throw against mostly zone coverage, which resulted in a stifled Jags offence.

A similar adage rings around the league when a certain football powerhouse continues to maintain is nauseating level of success year after year: ‘Do your job’. This needs to be the mantra for this unit moving forward. Perhaps it would refreshing to see a newly coined phrase, but the message remains the same. Now bereft of stars on that side of the ball, the unit must be greater than the sum of its parts, a step-change from previous era’s of Houston Defence, but one that is needed if 2019 is to yield any results.

The Texans front will be asking a lot of young and inexperienced players. Chuck Omenihu has shown he can make plays, but finding consistency in using his long and powerful frame will be key for the former Big10 defensive player of the year. Jacob Martin is a pure speed rusher with a high level motor and Carlos Watkins a former 4th round pick on a contract year will need to dig deep in the trenches to created QB pressures. Whitney Mercilus looked to be on an unstoppable track at the seasons outset, however he has regressed in top line production but will be the teams main threat as an edge bender. The trusted aids, who form the self proclaimed “Lunch Pail Crew” lead by growing star in DJ Reader (also in contract year and would seem in line for a serious offer from someone, if not the Texans) ably assisted by DJ Dunny and Angelo Blackston will need to be dependable as ever to out allow the middle Linebackers to work freely.

B-Mac & Zack as a pairing has a ring to it on paper just as much as they do on the field. The level which the two continue to play the run and the improvements in pass coverage, means that this is no longer a weakness that opposing offences attack. This tandem is up there in the top 4 of pairings at that position and are vital to this team’s success. Dylan Cole perhaps hasn’t reached the level of play some might have hoped and Texans have continued to mix the third safety into packages, this is something that will need to be answered during the bye.

J-Reid continues to be a player that opposing teams avoid in the passing game. The Stanford engineering grad. shows equal nouse of the football field and is the leader of this secondary. The surprising addition of Gareon Conley, who lead with eight tackles last Sunday, appears to be in a position to succeed in this defence. The Texans will need growth from this group, under the stewardship of Anthony Midget and Conley’s fellow Ohio State product Bradley Roby, will be a much needed return from the hamstring injury that has sidelined him since week 6. Lonnie-J. Jr will hope he can brush off his concussion to return to round out a starting group that will need the experience of Jonathan Jospeh and safety Teshaun Gipson to solidify this DB unit in tough moments. The invaluable experience that the duo of Armstrong and Crossen will have gained in the starters absence will only be good for a position grouping that appeared to be the achilles heel of this team. But a scenario now presents itself where this group are in a situation to change that mentality down the stretch, it’s a case of piecing it together, week by week.

Oct 13, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Houston Texans running back Carlos Hyde (23) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

A team with Watson in it, is one that will likely be within touching distance regardless of whoever they face. In his 32 starts, the Texans have never lost by more than a single score. Now sitting at 6-3, the Texans will be largely content with their start to the season. The week four Carolina game aside, this 2019 Houston football team has been largely impressive. The engine of the team is their third-year quarterback who’s growth and maturation has been evident. The coaching staff have progressed the playbook to assist in heightening Watson’s strengths, but the mental aspect of the game is where ‘D4’ is not only elevating his own performances but all of those around him. Going into this bye week, Houston leads the league in total offence with 3,570 yards and Watson has contributed more total touchdowns that any other player with 25, through nine games. Whilst Watson continues to complete over 70% of his passes and adding over 30yards for rushing, he threat is ever-present, regardless of the score or situation. The offence has become dynamic, but in so many different ways.

But the emergence of a supporting cast from unlikely sources has been an underrated narrative. Tight end, Darren Fells, discarded by the imploding Browns was a veteran free agent pick up. Fells, a former pro basketball player, leads his position in touchdowns with six. The Browns, albeit for an above market value rate, bolstered the Texans once more in the trade for Duke Johnson. Duke not only notched his first rushing TD on Sunday, but also lead the team in receiving yards. His unique skill set has changed the way defences match up their coverages and has added a completely new dimension to keep opposing co-ordinators guessing. The Texans have transformed their half-back position group, lead by coach Danny Barrett and perhaps by chance. Carlos Hyde, by all accounts was offered to the Texans by Kansas City as a first option prior to hitting the waiver wire. He has been a missing piece of the offence of O’Briens tenure since the loss of Arian Foster in the 2014 pre-season. A true bell-cow back who lowers the pads, welcomes contact has added an element off balance to the offence. After a 160 yard performance last Sunday and 704 yards for the year, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, it’s difficult not be equally surprised and delighted with the “Elguapo” addition.

The aforementioned trio have been strong additions to an offence growing in stature but be careful not to overlook the secondary asset gained in this seasons bombshell trade, wide receiver Kenny Stills. The former Oklahoma stand-out has been an under the radar extension of this offence. His season has been defined by clutch catches when the team needs a play he is often the second read, when in receiver heavy sets. Stills announced his arrival in week-one with an introductory catch to the fan base, taking a late lead against arguably the NFL’s best team, in Louisiana. If this had of been a game winner perhaps it would have etched into Houston folklore more than current levels of praise have attained. However, it is clear he’s a trusted aid in passing game and it’s reasonable to expect that Stills will make an sizeable impact on this season’s story.

The primary addition of the seismic trade with Miami brought over left tackle Laremy Tunsil. The front office on Kirby Drive have been looking for answers at that position since the acrimonious split with former pro-bowler Duane Brown. Addressing the most vital position of the O-line has had wide reaching and positive consequences for the offence. Tunsil’s play has shored up the unit and often with O-Line play, a game changer can elevate the other four performances across the line and that’s been the case with both Rookie’s Sharping at left guard and Tytus Howard at right tackle. The missed time by Tytus was a stark reminder to all what phenomenal additional he’s been to this team despite being panned by draft nicks, he’s proven he was worth the selection and some. Even the sometimes questionable Nick Martin at centre appears to have found a groove and perhaps a string of good health and is playing at a solid level as the anchor in front of Deshaun.

The biggest issues for the last three weeks for the Texans has been health. Sunday saw yet another missed game by speedster Will Fuller. The fourth year player out of Notre Dame, is a pro-bowler when healthy but the ability to stay on the field has eluded him and robbed the Texans of one of the games best deep threats. If, Fuller can stay healthy, his speed opens up sections of the play book and gives this team big-play ability that they lack, in his absence. His return and sustained returned in the back half of the 2019 slate will be critical.

The proverbial sky is the limit for this team, providing team defence can rule the day and missed special team assignments are kept to a minimum. As we sit watching the remainder of the league playing out their ties this weekend, the Texans have three-game stretch upcoming that will delineate their 2019 fortunes. To this point they have exceeded expectations, propelled by Coach OB’s wheeling and dealing. It would seem now that theres an inclination to logically envisage more. Standing in their way of a play off run: at Baltimore, hosting both Thursday Night Football against the Colts and Sunday Night Football against New England. This of course followed by a 4 game-run that looks winnable but such games could easily become no-contests, if the Texans can’t handle the three preliminary ties.

In this three game span, there there will be no hiding places, the margin for error reduced and a need for at 53 men to step forward and be counted. If this can happen and the Texans can come out the tallest of tasks with two wins, then we can afford ourself to perhaps dream but only a for a short while. The Indy game is on a short week after a trip East will be the toughest test of all. Mainly, as under no circumstances can the Texans drop that game in the division. Most Texans fans would put up with a loss to both Baltimore and from the visit from the Tom Brady, if it lead to a win against the Colts. Every game in the NFL is must win, but the winner of that TNF clash will likely go on to win the AFC South and gain the resulting home play-off tie in the division round.

It would appear the odds and momentum could likely be stacked against this team going into these games. Lamar Jackson and the Ravens unique run-heavy offence will in all probability be 7-2 going into the clash as they face the 0-8 Cincinnati Bengals this weekend with Andy Dalton watching on from the sidelines. Similarly the Colts, the health of Jacobs Brissett’s MCL aside, host two games in their own building against a 1-7 Miami side – albeit coming of their first win this season – followed by a visit from the Jags. A Nick Foles revival in Duval county will need to be in the hopes and prayers across Houston.

The Texans in their entire history have been in the shadow of the team that everyone loves to hate, the New England Patriots in the race in the AFC. The Pats scheduled to the point, sitting 8-1, has been favourable by any stretch of the imagination. Losing their first game of the season in Baltimore last week is one point of consideration but so is their impending trip to Philadelphia and hosting the Cowboys, prior to the Texans on national television. Facing two teams who have limited room for error in the NFC East race, will likely bring the best out of a new England unit who have a remarkable ability to rise to the occasion. But they certainly have the tougher prelude prior to facing the Texans. This should give reason for some modest optimism and its worth noting they face the Chiefs the following week, in Foxborough. It appears the AFC’s elite will have traded blows substantially by the close of week 14, to give a clear idea of the run-in required for each city to reach it’s goals.

It’s currently all to play for, the view of this years Texans squad will be a more accurate picture come the end of the New England game. There’s far too much football to be played for comparing of schedule run-in’s and lots of variable will swing and questions will be answered in the next month.

But one is thing for sure, there’s very few other leaders on this planet your’d rather have than H-Town’s no. 4 to take on the AFC’s elite. The closer, each week they can get to health and playing a full 60mins with cleaner execution, it would be remiss not to say that this team has got a real chance.

LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 03: Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans jumps over Ronnie Harrison #36 of the Jacksonville Jaguars for a touchdown was is later disallowed after review during the NFL match between the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on November 03, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images)
11Sun, Nov 17@Baltimore6:00 PMCBS
12Fri, Nov 22vsIndianapolis1:20 AMFOXNFL
13Mon, Dec 2vsNew England1:20 AMNBC
14Sun, Dec 8vsDenver6:00 PMCBS
15Sun, Dec 15@Tennessee6:00 PMCBS
16Sun, Dec 22@Tampa BayTBDCBS
17Sun, Dec 29vsTennessee6:00 PMCBS

An Ailed Texans Rally late for a comeback win against the Raiders

Deshaun Waston once again puts his beleaguered teammates on his back and hooks up with TE Darren Fells late on a number of crucial and mesmerising plays to edge past Oakland after trailing for 50 plus minutes. But further injuries threaten this team’s season on defence, leaving many questions on that side of the ball. How they will be answered in the final 8 games, remains to be a challenge for the coaching staff.

Another afternoon, another slow start. This team continues to be hindered by its inability to start games fast. When Deshaun and the offence get into gear, we’ve seen how rapidly points appear on the board. This 2019’s team quest for consistency is one that confines its ceiling to a level of underachievement based on its offensive talent. Now leading the league in pre-snap penalties, it appears early in games the Texans can’t get out from under their own feet and are creating a habit of trailing early. A touchdown to the pass catching tail back, Duke Johnson was the only highlight of a 1st half to forget. This was to be overcome by Deshaun and the offence late-on but against the AFC’s elite this may not be quite as easy as flicking the switch when needed.

The biggest story bar the result on Sunday was the loss of the unofficial mayor of Houston, Justin James Watt. The star D-End’s season has once again been prematurely ended and leaving a gaping hole in Romeo Crennel’s unit. It’s clear at this stage of JJ’s career the team can no longer rely on him to be healthy, the run of injuries has now seen him miss more than 30 games overs last 4 seasons. His loss to an already muted pass rush is colossal. JJ’s year to date, was one that saw him lead the league in QB hits, despite only notching four sacks he was playing at a high level. It remains to be seen how such a void can be filled and what impact will this have on the team. Will this just further expose an already porous pass defence? The answers will be stark in the coming weeks but after an innocuous tackle for loss, Watt on the next play knew something wasn’t quite right and headed up the tunnel.

This team was already constrained by injuries particularly in the secondary. Starting Safety Teshaun Gipson, and long serving Cornerback Johnathan Jospeh were both respectively held out of this game. This was already against a back drop of free agent signing, Bradly Roby out with a hamstring injury & rookie second round-pick, Lonnie Johnson Jr, left the field with a suspected concussion in the second quarter. This would have appeared to open the door for an Oakland passing attack which lead 21-13 in the third quarter. A Raiders unit lead by the Quarterback in question by his own fanbase: Derek Carr. A familiar name in Houston sports folklore as his older brother, Derek, infamously dawned the Texans uniform as its first ever quarterback as an expansion franchise in 2002. An arrangement for a variety of reasons that didn’t work out and remains to this day an example of not putting the talent around a passer that a franchise has greatly invested in.

This would have been the criticism of your current Houston Texans prior to last season. The influx of talent, after parting with significant draft capital, had created offensive line that looked to be a strong and gelling unit. However, injuries once again impacted Deshaun’s first line of protection. Tytus Howard, this years 1st round pick, missed his second consecutive game with a strained MCL. Late in the 4th quarter, Laremy Tunsil left with a shoulder ailment that was later described as minor.

Having Watson’s two cornerstone’s on either side of the line missing, is what makes the final two drives all the more special. Street free agent Chris Clarke and recently signed from New England Practice squad, Dan Skipper, were the protection on the edges. The go-ahead TD isn’t something we haven’t seen from Waston before. But the ability to escape pressure in the pocket and to spin away from the clutches of a would be sack-artist is unique. To evade two defensive lineman, be kicked in the eye with a trailing leg, adjust his helmet, throw a 12-yard pass to his tight end with only sight in one eye was a sequence that defines Watson and who he is as a QB.

The defence then made a stand on Oakland final two drives of the ball game, a sure-fire pick-six was dropped by linebacker Dylan Cole but that lead to the introduction of the Raiders field-goal unit for the first time in the game. The following Oakland possession was then blown up by D-Tackle come D-End, DJ Reader who continues to flourish in the pass rush as he drew a hold from the Raiders stand-in centre. A ten yard holding penalty was issued by the officiating crew. Then after giving up a first down pass on the final drives first play, newly acquired Gareon Conley rose when needed. Acquired for a third round pick from Oakland earlier in the week, facing his old teammates, broke up a pass intended for Tyrell Williams and forced the punt.

The offence were able then to kneel this one out after the two-minute warning. Again Darren Fells, an ever reliable target for Waston, grabbed a one-handed snag and to get the first down. This ones in the books the Texans who walked out 27-24 winners after not reaching their potential for much of the afternoon and the injuries continue to pile up.

The transatlantic trip against the Jags in an early kick (8.30am Central) at the home of English soccer, Wembley Stadium, awaits in a must win game prior to the much needed bye week.

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London’s Calling – the Texans make the inaugural trip as a franchise to take on the well travelled Jacksonville Jaguars in a pivotal AFC South Clash.

The Houston Texans will travel to London this week to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars, in the Texans first game in London and their second international game as a franchise. The Jaguars will have the obvious advantage due to their experience of playing games in London and more so in Wembley stadium since 2013, holding a 3-3 record. The Texans only previous experience of international games was an ill-fated trip to Mexico City where the Texans left with 27-20 defeat at the hand of the Raiders. But greater factors than game plan execution were at play that night.

The injury laden 5-3 Texans, who are coming off a late come-back win against Oakland, will need to dig deep to best a well trodden divisional foe on a transatlantic business trip prior to the bye week. Injury to star defensive end JJ Watt – the three times defensive MVP – only adds to the already depleted secondary group who will face rookie revelation, quarterback Gardner Minshew who’s lead the team back to a 4-4 record, in the early kick off this Sunday.

This seasons previous encounter saw the Texans narrow 13-12 victors. Aided by a perplexing decision by Jags Head Coach Doug Marrone’s failed two point conversion rather than tie the game by kicking the PAT. That game was also Minshew’s first start for the Jag’s after high price free agent and former Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles, suffered a broken clavicle sustained in week 1, after only eleven plays.

Jacksonville, are in the midst of a two-game winning streak courtesy of a 27-17 and 29-15 victory over Cincinnati & the Jets, respectively. That span has seen the former Washington State prospect complete 67.2% of his passes, contributing 610 yards of total offence, 4 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Minshew-Mania has ebbed and flowed since replacing the injured Foles. But what is clear, jorts, moustache and headband aside, is that he carries poise and a football IQ well beyond his tender years. A 13:2 touchdowns to interception ratio should not be taken lightly for a first year player in only 7 starts. Containing the Jags running back will be a key to the game from the Texans sidelines. The Texans defensive front will be in for a physical battle against former 4th overall pick in 2017, Leonard Fournette. The LSU product looks to be returning to form after a year two slump and injuries slowed his progress. Albeit against a struggling Jets defensive unit Fournette put up 136 years combine through the air and ground attack, in week 8. A concern for the secondary will be the need to game plan for the productive wide receiver-duo: Chris Conley who has put up over 180 yards in only 7 receptions across the Jags two victories coming into Sunday’s game; Fournette’s alma mater, DJ Chark has contributed 8TD’s and 834 yard through the air. The Jags will likely look lean on the pair to spark the passing game due to the loss of Marquise Lee, who was placed on the IR this week.

Health is perhaps the biggest leveller in the NFL and it’s exemplified no more than by the Texans injury report this week, listing no less than 18 players. The Texans deep threat, but often injured wide receiver Will Fuller will miss the clash. As likely will rookie corner Lonnie Johnson Jr. who is dealing with a concussion and is in the protocol. The former Jag, Teshaun Gipson will likely also further deplete the secondary with back and wrist complaints. A much needed return to this team would be in both Bradley Roby at corner, the free agent from the Bronco’s has proven as astute addition to this team, just as 1st right tackle Tytus Howard’s return would be, who has proven the doubters wrong with some sterling performances this season. Less the loss of Foles, Jacksonville appear the far healthier team going into the second match-up of the season between the two clubs as they both enter the back half of their schedules.

The longer term decision facing the Jags will be the Minshew-Foles decision, what will come of that will remain to be seen. However, Jacksonville have limited cap space as they were unable to extend edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue’s contract which lead to a pre-season hold out. Thought this may not hurt the team as once thought due to the emergence of the former Kentucky Wildcats edge-wrecker, Josh Allen. The 7th overall pick in this years draft has returned through 8 weeks: 23 tackles, 7 sacks and two forced fumbles. Combined with the ever-present Calais Campbell & former UCLA Bruin Myles Jack at linebacker provides a stout unit which has lead Watson to sub 60% clips on multiple occasions. This Jags defence is hard to move the ball against and is the strength of their team that provides a challenge through the air or on the ground attack for every offence they face.

The Texans offensive line lead by Laremy Tunsil at left tackle will be hoping they can return to relative health and form if they are to quell a ferocious pass rush and allow Watson time to find his wealth of receiving options. This will provide a central theme that decides Sunday’s tie, pitting the Jags against Houston star quarterback. When rolling, this Texans offence can be explosive, lead by wide receiver Deandre Hopkins who will like their chances against as Jag’s defensive unit which lost its star Jalen Ramsey to a blockbuster trade earlier in the season. Hopkins became the third quickest players to reach 8,000 receiving yards, only behind hall of famers Jerry Rice and Larry Fitzgerald, last week agains the Raiders and continues to enter the conversation as the best wide receiver in the league. The prospect of watching D-Hop work should be enough for any neutral to part with the admission price. His numbers continue to soar as he is Watson’s go-to-guy, the pair of Celm(p)son products have a unique chemistry that means defences have to account for him on every play.

HOUSTON, TX – DECEMBER 30: Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) relaxes during a timeout in the football game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans on December 30, 2018 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Ramsey & Hopkins bi-annual battle not being on the field will be a loss to the neutral. But the flexibility which Jalen allowed his team mates to play with has been a substantial contributing factor in previous clashes. No longer having the services of a rare player type at that position, who can shut-down opposing receivers will be huge plus for the Texans game plan. The coverage versatility will be lessened as the remainder of the DB unit won’t enjoy the same level of freedom to take risks attacking the ball, that they could when they counted Ramsey as a teammate. This now leaves former Texan AJ Bouye as the Jags main cover corner, one of the best number 2 corners in the league but not able to provide what Ramsey once gave DC Todd Walsh and this defensive unit.

The NFL international series games bring a whirlwind of fanfare for sport fans to see a great sport live. These games are great for the league, its brand, enagement and resulting merchandise sales. It provides extension of a sport when improving the accessibility to its core product – the live games themselves. And despite how much players privately will not be thrilled with the travel, the growth in revenues ultimately finds a way back into the players pockets via the extension of the salary cap which continues to grow exponentially each season. However, the impact on players bodies in a NFL season is a war of attrition and the healthier Jacksonville side with experience of the strains travelling have the edge going into the game, at their home, away from home. Although in essence, this is a road game for both teams and it would appear the Jags willingly give up any home field advantage they would have otherwise had, even if the tarps are on the top tier of TIAA Bank Field.

What must be considered beyond the travel and time zone acclimation is the potential weather and that grass field which certainly hasn’t been in optimal football condition in previous NFL games held at Wembley. It appeared the approach was to just grow the grass longer from its complexion on last weeks broadcast. Whatever, the state of the turf or the weather, it will provide a stark contrast to the conditions accustomed by both teams. If the colder winter rain comes down on a grey London day, this game could well turn into man-ball where games decided on the ground and both respective lines will go at it for sixty minutes, in the trenches. That would also side with Jags as their biggest offensive weapon is at running back. Ball security will be paramount and can shift momentum in a hurry, Carlos Hyde, despite contributing 544 yards on the ground and 3TD’s has coughed the ball up on three occasion, so something to monitor this Sunday as the Great British winter sets in.

All things being equal, if Deshaun and the offence can find a way to get out in front and force Minshew and the Jags to be aggressive with the ball then therein lies the potential of the rookie passer to turn the ball over. The Texans had prior to last week, the longest active streak of turnovers in the NFL and regardless of personnel available will be looking to get a new streak in motion. Offence versus offence alone, the advantage sits with the Texans and the wizardry that Waston, Hopkins, Fells et.al have shown over the first half of the season. Particularly the Jags susceptibility against TE’s and crossing routes over the middle versus their coverage concepts commonly deployed in their game plan. Advantage Texans on that front.

The biggest question looming, that no one bar the Texans coaching staff can really answer, is what personnel will the Texans trot out in both the front and back end of their defence? That remains a big unknown for this defence how they will manufacture pressures on the opposing quarterback in an era where the front seven will not contain JJ Watt or Jadeveon Clowney. With the only discernible NFL-level proven edge rusher left on the roster in Whitney Mercilius. He will have significant pressure on his broad shoulders to find a way to penetrate the backfield if the Texans want to get Minshew and the Jags behind the chains. Minshew, just as Carr & Brissett have in previous weeks, should enjoy his fair share of plays against the Texans secondary, regardless of who’s out there. The team that plays the most fundamentally sound game plan, Jags O versus Texans D, will be a major reason for the way this game transpires. But at this stage the battle lines are yet to be drawn and hopefully Romeo Crennel has been putting his forty plus years of NFL coaching experience to good use this week.

Every NFL game is swung on the basis of 4 to 5 plays, as second to health, momentum is such a vital factor for every team. Many division match-up’s are stifled by the level the familiarly between two team which has a tendency to cancel out the others strengths. Much of Sunday’s tie will centre around Jags pass rush influence, coupled with the Texans front 7 will be largely unknown which either unit could shift this games direction quickly. The newly found freedom of a Jalen-less defence could prove for Hopkins & Kenny Stills to have a strong outing. A tight game at hand, but points to be had where neither side can ill afford to lose. But if the ball is in the hands of the Texans number 4, on the final drive, with the game on the line, who’s to bet against him?

TEXANS @ JAGS, Wembley Stadium, London, KO: 2:30 BST//8:30 CT, NFL Network, Fox26 Houston.