Houston Texans (2-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-0)
If Matt Schaub were starting in this one, Houston would have been my Pick of the Week. Seriously. I think they’re significantly better than their record right now. They are just getting killed in turnovers and points off of turnovers, two things that tend to be inconsistent on a week to week basis. Since 1989, 35 teams have lost despite winning the first down battle by 10 and the yardage battle by 200. 2 of those teams are the 2013 Houston Texans and the Texans also did so a 3rd time against Tennessee. One of those times was last week against the Rams.
The Texans have turned the ball over 15 times this year. 6 of those were returned for touchdown, an absurd 40% rate that would not have continued going forward. Between those 6 returns and a punt return touchdown they allowed, they are -6 in return touchdowns, -42 in points off of returns. Even if they were to continue their AFC worst -12 turnover margin, an average of -2 per game, they would not continue to get killed by return as much.
However, it was unlikely they’d continue that turnover margin. If they were to continue an average of -2 per game, they’d finish the season at -32, which would be a modern day record. I don’t think this team is all-time bad in turnovers, especially a year after they were +12 in turnover margin. And that highlights another point: that turnover margin is very random and inconsistent on a year to year and week to week basis. On average, teams that have a -4 turnover margin in a given game have an average turnover margin of +0.0 the following week and the same is true for teams that have a +4 turnover margin in a given game.
That turnover margin was largely the result of an unsustainably low rate of recovering fumbles and an uncharacteristically high interception rate by Matt Schaub. Thus far, the Texans are recovering just 30.8% of fumbles, which won’t continue. Matt Schaub, meanwhile, was throwing an interception on 3.9% of his attempts, as opposed to 2.6%, which is his career rate. When he is under center going forward, that probably won’t continue.
The Texans are actually moving the chains pretty well, a 76% rate, as opposed to 72% for their opponents. That’s a differential that’s 9th best in the NFL, while Kansas City sits at 4th. However, Houston has faced a much tougher schedule than Kansas City thus far as all 6 of their opponents this season are currently .500 or better. Kansas City’s opponents, meanwhile, are 11-25 combined. Houston with Matt Schaub is arguably the 2nd best team they’ve faced thus far this season behind Dallas, who only lost by 1 in Kansas City.
The Texans are also in a good spot off of back-to-back losses by 21+ or more. Teams are 37-20 ATS in this spot since 2002. Teams tend to be undervalued, overlooked, and embarrassed in that situation. The Texans have yet to cover a spread thus far this season, but that’s because they’ve been overrated thus far. That’s obviously no longer the case. Everyone covers a spread eventually, at least 3 or 4 times per year, even really bad teams, which is not what I think Houston is.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, have been helped by an unsustainably high +12 turnover margin, largely as the result of a 64.7% fumble recovery rate. If Schaub were under center, I legitimately thought they had a good chance to pull the upset and, at the very least, cover. However, I don’t really feel like putting a ton of confidence in an undrafted rookie who has never attempted an NFL pass on the road against arguably the best defense in the NFL, which is allowing a 62% rate of moving the chains, albeit against a weak schedule.
We could see the rest of the team, particularly their strong defense, step up and shut down a Kansas City offense that is moving the chains at a mere 69% rate, despite a weak schedule. That could definitely keep this came close and the fact that the line is so low makes me think that it’s a trap line, especially with the public all over Kansas City. If this line increases to a touchdown or more, I’ll increase this to medium confidence, but don’t put anything on this line yet. There’s a chance it increases in the wake of the Keenum announcement, but it’s been a few hours and nothing has really changed, so we’ll see.
Update: The line is still now at 7. I’m going to raise this to medium confidence.
Kansas City Chiefs 16 Houston Texans 13
Pick against spread: Houston +7