Houston Texans (1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0)
I had the Falcons as one of the least talented teams in the league on paper going into the season, but they’ve started 3-0. What’s gone differently? Well, the Matt Ryan to Julio Jones connection hasn’t just been great, it’s been record breaking, as Jones has caught 34 passes (most in the first 3 games of the season in NFL history) for 440 yards and 4 touchdowns. The offensive line and running game have also performed better than I expected, but, other than that, not much.
They still don’t have a good 2nd option in the passing game. They haven’t exactly needed one yet, but Jones probably won’t catch the 181 passes for he’s on pace for (which would beat the current single season record by 38) so lack of a 2nd option is still somewhat of a concern. The defense, meanwhile, has still been awful, aside from top cornerback Desmond Trufant. The Falcons are 3-0, but they could have easily lost against both Philadelphia and the Giants and then got the Cowboys when they were down, missing both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, along with a bunch of guys at defensive end. Their awful defense still allowed the depleted Cowboys’ offense to move the ball up and down the field with ease for most of the game.
However, the Falcons could still easily move to 5-0 without breaking a sweat or really playing that well, hosting the Texans this week and then the Redskins next week. Facing the NFC East, the AFC South, and playing in the week NFC South, the Falcons are going to end up having one of the easiest schedules in the league this season. Division rival Carolina, who has also had a very easy schedule, is also 3-0 without being very talented. The Falcons are in a great spot here with another easy game on deck. Teams are 105-65 ATS since 2010 as 6+ point favorites before being 6+ point favorites again, as the better team usually takes care of business with no upcoming distractions. The Texans, meanwhile, have a tough game on deck as they host the Indianapolis Colts in a few days on Thursday Night Football.
I still don’t love taking an average at best Atlanta team as 6.5 point favorites that much. The Texans aren’t very good either, but this line is still probably too high, especially since it’s moved from 3.5 to 6.5 in a week. That feels like an overreaction to Atlanta being 3-0, though I do think the line was too low to begin with. Texans are also in a good spot, as week 4 underdogs who just won their first game of the season week 3 are 32-10 ATS since 1989. The Texans also could be getting both Duane Brown and Arian Foster back from injury. It’s unclear how much either will play or how effective either will be in their first game back, but it’s definitely a benefit to have arguably your two best offensive players back on the field. I’m ultimately taking the Texans and fading the public, who is heavy on the Falcons, but I’m not confident.
Atlanta Falcons 24 Houston Texans 20
Pick against the spread: Houston +6.5