Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 2:30 PM EST.
We made our case against the 2017 Texans when we posted them to finish under the posted win total earlier this week. This is what we wrote:
The 2016 Texans were about as bad as a division winner can get. Consider that they ranked a lowly 29th in DVOA, (a relevant metric that measures defense adjusted value over average) safely sandwiched between two teams that fired their coaches, the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams. This was a bad team that won some games. The Texans joined the privileged ranks of those teams that posted a winning record while being outscored over the season. Houston posted the fourth-worst point differential for a team with a winning record since 1989, and things don't often go well for teams in that bracket. The 10 winning teams’ with the worst point differentials declined by an average of three wins the following season. Those numbers do not bode well for the Texans, nor does one element of the game that often regresses toward the mean from year to year. Houston was terrible on special teams last season, finishing dead last in DVOA while finishing well below league average on everything except punt returns. Normally, teams will make a change in their coaching staff or personnel, and that, combined with some randomness, will push a truly bad special-teams unit toward the middle of the pack. The problem, though, is that the Texans were also last in special-teams DVOA last season, at which point they fired Bob Ligashesky and hired Larry Izzo. They were 28th under Ligashesky in 2014, 29th in 2013 and last in 2012. It has been five seasons since Houston peeked out from the bottom five in the league in special teams. You would think that might inspire personnel changes but the Texans brought back kicker Nick Novak and punter Shane Lechler on one-year extensions and will return four of their six most frequent special-teams players from a year ago. None of this inspires any confidence that things will be different in 2017.
As a sleeper pick again last season, the Jaguars did what they always do and went 3-13. While the record was awful on paper, it allowed them to draft former LSU Tiger running back Leonard Fournette in the first round this past April. The situation the rookie finds himself in might not be as bad as it looks but after an offseason filled with negative headlines about quarterback Blake Bortles, the Jags are being written off as the same old garbage franchise they've always been. A report that Bortles threw five inceptions in practice was blown way out of proportion this off season. Isn't that what practice is for? A closer look at 2016 shows that it's not nearly as bad as it looks. While teams’ like the Raiders were very fortunate winning most of the close game they were in, the Jags were the complete opposite. In games decided by seven points or less Jacksonville went 2-8. In Week 1, the Jags had the visiting Packers on the ropes but failed on a 4th and 1 play that set the tone for the whole season. While the Texans defense gets all the headlines in the AFC South, the Jags have quietly built one of the better front sevens in the league and their commitment to drafting quality defensive players is about to pay off.
Jacksonville's reputation coming into 2017 can be summed up like this, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." After a couple of years as a hopeful upstart, it appears the market will not allow the Jags to ruin another Sunday and that's clear in Week 1. How Tom Savage could be favored against anyone in this league is beyond us. He has rookie Deshaun Watson breathing down his neck and every sound bite from his coach is a vote of confidence, which is not always a good sign.
Jacksonville was supposed to be really good last year but bad luck bit them hard. This is an unforgiving market that got sick of ripping up their tickets when backing the Jags. Everything is in place this year for the Jags to make their move because expectations are low. The Jags could actually be a playoff team if they catch lightning instead of being struck by it. Bortles has been around long enough now to be able to learn from his mistakes and make better decisions. There is no question that he has the talent. For the Jags, a season full of opportunity along with some experienced and talented players makes for a strong confluence in 2017 and we've been waiting for a spot to capitalize. This one comes to us right off the bat.
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Jacksonville +193 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.86)