Houston Texans (2-11) at Indianapolis Colts (8-5)
The Texans fired Head Coach Gary Kubiak last week. They probably won’t give any effort this week right? That seems to be what the public thinks as they are all over the Colts as 6 point favorites here. I love fading the public whenever it makes sense, as the odds makers always win in the long run, especially when the public is wrong. I don’t think the Texans firing Kubiak last week will really negatively affect them this week. If anything, it might help them as 6 of the last 8 teams to fire their head coach covered the following week. That’s a small sample size, but definitely seems to disprove the notion that teams who fire their Head Coach show no effort the following week. These are still professional football players and they are now playing to impress a new coaching staff and possibly a new team.
The Texans have shown they’ll get up for important games, almost knocking off both the Patriots and these Colts in recent weeks. The Colts are also in freefall, with a -59 point differential in their last 6 games since the bye. For comparison’s sake, the “lowly” Texans have a point differential of just -28 over their past 6 games since the bye. The Colts are not as good as their record, while the Texans are not as bad as their record.
The Colts got off to a great start to their season, with wins over Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver, but have been terrible of late, as I alluded to in the last paragraph. A lot of people are blaming this on the absence of Reggie Wayne and that has something to do with it, but he’s just one wide receiver. It’s hard to blame everything, including the defense’s ineptitude, on his absence. More likely, the Colts are just regressing back to their 2012 ways, after a fluky strong start to this season.
Last season, they needed 7 wins by 7 points or fewer against teams that finished 7-9 or worse to win 11 games, thanks to terrible defense and offensive line play. I think they’re probably still better this season than last season, but they’re still not as good as their current 8-5 record would suggest. They’re 6-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, have one win by more than 8 points (over Jacksonville), have a negative point differential, and rank 17th in DVOA, including 19th in weighted DVOA.
The Texans, meanwhile, are 2-8 in games decided by a touchdown or less and haven’t lost by more than a touchdown since week 6. The Texans might not win this game, but they could keep it close once again with a Colts team that has almost exclusively won their games by a small margin this season. That’s relevant to a game with a 6 point line. The Texans have also been killed by a -6 differential in return touchdowns and a -14 turnover differential, two things that tend to be inconsistent.
In terms of purely rate of moving the chains, the Texans rank 18th, moving them at a 68.59% rate, as opposed to 69.59% for their opponents. The Colts, meanwhile, actually rank 19th, moving them at a 72.36% rate, as opposed to 73.54% for their opponents. I don’t think the Texans are a better team than the Colts and you can’t blindly follow that statistic, but it’s worth noting and it makes sense considering both of these teams’ tendencies to play close games and be on opposite sides of them. Finally, the Texans are in a good spot as underdogs on an 8+ game losing streak. Teams are 53-30 ATS in that spot since 1989 as teams tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and embarrassed on a long losing streak like that, as long as they are underdogs.
There three reasons why this isn’t a bigger play on the Texans. One, the Texans have the Broncos up next. I have a strong feeling the Texans will bring their “A game” this week for their divisional rival, but they could be distracted with Denver coming to town next week. Teams are 35-66 ATS before being home underdogs of 3 or more since 2012, which the Texans almost definitely will be next week. They might not be focused enough to keep this one close.
Two, Andrew Luck is 9-0 ATS off of a loss in his career, which is something to take notice of. However, he has only once been favored by more than 3.5 points in that scenario, a 7 point win against an eventual 2-14 Chiefs team last year as 6.5 point favorites on the road. The third and final reason is just the uncertainty surrounding the Texans after losing Gary Kubiak last week. They might be able to bring their “A game,” in spite of that, but there are no guarantees. The Texans definitely seem like the right side, but I can’t be terribly confident.
Indianapolis Colts 23 Houston Texans 20
Pick against spread: Houston +6