Jacksonville Jaguars (+9.5)* at Houston Texans
Say what you will about the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the team is actually trying to compete on a weekly basis. Only one of their last four games have featured a double-digit loss – ironically, against this week’s opponent in Houston – and no team has scored more than 27 points against the Jaguars since their Week 11 bye.
Houston, equally written off each week as one quarterback after another falls off the map with an injury, kept its playoff hopes alive with a Week 16 victory against the Ravens that highlighted the team’s innovative ways to put points on the scoreboard – this time, it was a touchdown pass from running back Arian Foster. With a game-changing playmaker in J.J. Watt lining up everywhere from defensive end to tight end, the Texans make the most out of their personnel on nearly every play.
It gets dangerous, however, for a team to consistently rely on the sum of its parts being better than its components. Evidence of this could be found in the recent struggles of the Arizona Cardinals, down to their third-string quarterback. Furthermore, each year, a non-playoff team ends the hopes of a rival with a stunning upset.
Jacksonville, hungry to change its image and with a young team trying to build a foundation, upsets the Texans with a field goal victory, beating the spread.