The Houston Texans hope to give the city of Houston, devastated by the effects of Hurricane Harvey, a sense of hope when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday in an AFC South matchup. Houston, which will start Tom Savage at quarterback, welcomes back the city’s hero, All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt, while eyeing a return to the playoffs.
Watt, who missed all but three games last season after undergoing two back operations, jumped into the nation’s spotlight by spearheading a drive that has netted more than $20 million for the city’s flood-ravaged victims. His return on the field will be just as important for last season’s top-ranked returning defensive unit, as the Texans’ offense is loaded with questions after trading embattled quarterback Brock Osweiler in the offseason and turning to the unproven Savage, who has never thrown an NFL touchdown pass. Jacksonville will give Blake Bortles another shot at quarterback but the leash may be a short one as the once-promising gunslinger has thrown 51 interceptions over the past three seasons. Doug Marrone, who was 15-17 in two seasons with the Bills and served as interim coach for the final two games last season, is the Jaguars’ fifth head coach.
TV: 1 p.m., CBS. LINE: Texans -5. O/U: 39.5.
ABOUT THE JAGUARS (2016: 3-13, 4th in AFC South): Leonard Fournette, a rookie out of LSU, could be the cornerstone for Jacksonville’s offense this year as Marrone is sure to try to run the ball more than his predecessor, Mike Mularkey. The Jaguars, however, need to improve defensively as well as they allowed 25 points a game last season, which ranked 25th in the league. The solid tandem of Allen Robinson (73 receptions for 883 yards) and Allen Hurns (35-477) return at wide receiver but they combined to score just nine touchdowns last season after netting 24 the previous year.
ABOUT THE TEXANS (2016: 9-7, 1st in AFC South): Savage, who played in three games last season, takes over Osweiler, who was dealt to Cleveland and then released on cut day. Osweiler ranked 27th in the NFL last year with 2,957 yards passing, including 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, but he still helped the Texans into the second round of the playoffs, where they lost to eventual champion New England. Star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who has been limited in the preseason with a thumb injury, endorsed Savage for the job as the Texans look to return to the playoffs for the third year in a row.
1. Lamar Miller, who led the Texans with five touchdowns last season, will once again be the feature back after rushing for 1,073 yards in 2016.
2. Houston has won six straight in the series, including last season when Miller scored a touchdown with 2:51 left to lift the Texans to a 21-20 victory.
3. Tom Coughlin, Jacksonville’s executive vice president, said the team had no interest in signing QB Colin Kaepernick, leaving Chad Henne as Bortles’ backup.
PREDICTION: Texans 30, Jaguars 14