Both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans sit with identical 1-4 records after five games. Nationally, Houston has been the bigger disappointment after finishing 9-7 a year ago, and the expectation was to be improved in 2015.
Perhaps the HBO hype machine played into false expectations as the team was featured on Hard Knocks, and many of the players aside from J.J. Watt became household names.
Seemingly everyone around the league is wondering why the Texans are 1-4, despite having the best defensive player in the last 15 years.
“I would say we’ve turned it over ten times, we only have two takeaways so we’re minus 8 in that department," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien explained. "Last game we had thirteen penalties and I would say on the top of the list we’ve got to coach better So that’s what I’d say.”
Frustration is at an all-time high in Houston, and much of it is on the head coach.
Brian Hoyer apparently won the starting quarterback job in preseason, but it never felt like he was O'Brien's guy. That opinion was reinforced by the fact that the Texans head coached benched Hoyer in Week 1, only to turn the job over to the immature, raw Ryan Mallett.
With Mallett under the helm the Texans received the type of play that many expected from the quarterback position. Erratic throws, no mobility and plays not being made in crunch time.
Finally, O'Brien switched back to Hoyer in the second half of last week's loss to Indianapolis. Hoyer is expected to start on Sunday.
“Hoyer has played well the last two times he’s gone in there so we’re going to go with Hoyer against Jacksonville,," O'Brien said. "We’re just taking it one day at a time. We’re going to go to Jacksonville and play as good as we can against a tough team.”
When pressed on if it's Hoyer's team or even if Hoyer will play the entire game against the Jaguars, O'Brien stayed non-committal.
“Hoyer will play,” said the Texans head coach.
Houston's season is at a major crossroads. Everyone in Texas feels that this is a game the Texans have to win. The oddsmakers are calling it a push, so they even feel that Houston is a better team on a neutral field.
This is certainly a "circle it" game for the Texans.
“All we can do is focus on going out there and every single day trying to turn it around and focusing on practice, meetings and everything and that’s what we’re doing," reigning Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt said. "We’ve had a really good week of practice so far so we’re just focusing every single thing on what we can control and trying to make the most of it.”
Meanwhile, the Jaguars troubles have been well documented. They sit at 1-4, but could easily be 3-2. Self-inflicted wounds have hurt the team on a weekly basis and they need to stop the bleeding quickly, or else Gus Bradley, who the players love playing for, is going to pay with his job.
"I think that was more at the point in time I was a little emotional," Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley recounted. "I give credit to the players and I give credit to the coaches too. Like I said, we’re all acting and trying to get these things but I don’t want to take away from the positive things that we’re seeing. There’s development of a lot of things taking place and like I said we’ve just got to do it as a team and put it together. We want to keep the things that are building, we want to ensure they keep building and then these things we need to correct let’s act on them and get it done.”
WIth each loss, Bradley's win-loss record gets brought up. Currently, the tally reads 8-29.
The Jaguars and their fans feel that they should win on Sunday, even with Houston boasting the great J.J. Watt, Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Jacksonville has the better quarterback and it's a quarterback's league.
If anyone knows that it's the Houston Texans, who passed on Bortles in the 2014 NFL Draft in favor of Jadeveon Clowney, who is still searching for his first sack, much less big play in a game that counts.
There's a lot on the line for both teams in this game. Much of it revolves around the Clowney over Bortles decision. WIth a win, the Jaguars can rub in the fact that they're going to be better for the forseeable future at the most important position in sports, and it's all Houston's fault.
With a loss, the Jaguars need to evaluate what they're doing at every level, as they would have three consecutive losses against Matt Hasselbeck, Jameis Winston and Brian Hoyer.
Good teams don't do that.