Houston Texans (2-0) at Denver Broncos (1-1)
No line has moved more over the past week than this one. Last week, this line was -2.5 in favor of Denver and now it’s -2 in favor of Houston. Why? Because Houston blew out the lowly Jaguars? Because Denver lost by 6 in Atlanta, one of the toughest places to play in the National Football League? I don’t get it. This line should probably be around -2.5 or -3 because these teams are pretty evenly matched (3 points is home field advantage).
Speaking of home field advantage, I’ve said before that I expect the Broncos to have one of the best home/road disparities in the NFL this season. They have a huge advantage at home, running the no huddle against defenses not used to playing in the thin air, but on the road, not only do they not have that advantage, but in noisy atmospheres like Atlanta last week, it’s tough to communicate your signals on audibles at the line.
Last week, they lost in Atlanta, one of the toughest places in the league to play, but it wasn’t too bad. Despite a disastrous 1st quarter, the Broncos only lost by 6 and outgained the Falcons 336 to 275. The reason they lost was because they lost the turnover battle 4-0. That probably won’t happen again. Not only are turnovers inconsistent on a weekly basis anyway, but it just doesn’t feel like something that happens to Peyton Manning quarterbacked teams all that often. And the reason it doesn’t feel like that is because it actually doesn’t happen much. In Peyton Manning’s career before last week, his team had only lost the turnover differential battle by 4 or more 6 times and 4 of those times were in 2001 or earlier.
Turnovers aside, the Broncos have been one of the best teams in the league so far this year, ranking 3rd in yards per play differential, which is my favorite stat and one that I feel is the best indicator of future success. And the Broncos have done that against a tough schedule, playing two playoff teams from last year, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. The Texans, meanwhile, rank 7th despite playing Miami and Jacksonville.
This week, the Broncos get another tough test as they face the Texans, but they also return home where, as I mentioned, they have a huge advantage because they run a no huddle against teams not used to playing in the thin air. The Texans have one of the best defenses in the league, but so does Pittsburgh and the Steelers still eventually got winded and surrendered 31 points in a 31-19 loss week 1. I envision a similar outcome here. The Texans will be in it for a while, before Denver finally prevails and possibly by double digits. I’m not betting against them at home, especially as underdogs.
Speaking of underdogs, Peyton Manning is 10-2 ATS as an underdog since 2006 (excluding meaningless week 17 games. If you’re wondering how he does as a home as an underdog, well there’s not a lot to go on. He’s only been a home underdog one other time in that time period and that was against the Patriots in 2007 (he covered, but did not win). I picked against him as an underdog in Atlanta last week because of the home/away disparity and because of how good Matt Ryan is at home, but this week, I really like Denver, especially against a Houston team that hasn’t played anyone yet this season. They might still be in close to preseason mode and not prepared for this test. I also like that despite the big line change, the public is on Houston heavily. I like to go against the public every chance I get (the public is 13-19 this year and getting killed in games like this where a ton of the action is on one side).
Public lean: Houston (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Denver covers)
Denver Broncos 27 Houston Texans 20 Upset Pick +110
Pick against spread: Denver +2 (-110) 3 units