New England Patriots (10-2) at Houston Texans (6-6)
The Patriots are 33-17 ATS off of a loss when Tom Brady starts and they haven’t lost 3 straight since 2003. The problem is that the public is all over New England. They seem to rightfully see New England’s loss last week at home against the Eagles for the fluke that it was, a game in which the Patriots lost by a touchdown despite allowing 3 return touchdowns and going 1 of 3 on onside kick attempts. The Patriots moved the chains at a 73.81% rate, as opposed to 68.00% for the Eagles, and if a few things that almost never happen didn’t happen, the Patriots would have likely won by double digits. With the Patriots getting healthier this week, the public can’t see the Patriots not winning by more than 5 and covering this 4.5 point spread.
However, close to 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or less so this could be a close game much more easily than the public seems to think. The standard adjustment for homefield advantage is about 2.5-3 points, so this line suggests that the Patriots would be favored by about 10 or 10.5 over the Texans in New England. Considering the Eagles were just +9 last week, that doesn’t make much sense. I like to fade the public whenever it makes sense, as they always lose money in the long run, and it makes sense here.
New England is healthier, with linebacker Jamie Collins going into his 2nd game back from an illness, defensive tackle Dominique Easley returning, and tight end Rob Gronkowski likely to suit up following a one game absence, after practicing with the team Thursday and Friday and making the trip on Saturday. But they’re far from full strength. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower did not travel with the team, so he’ll miss his 2nd straight game, wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back Dion Lewis are obviously still out, and, while Gronkowski is expected to play, he could be used in a limited fashion just two weeks after he hyperextended and bruised his knee. Guard Josh Kline is also out.
The Texans are much closer to 100%. They don’t have anyone listed as anything less than probable this week and their only key player on injured reserve is running back Arian Foster, who he barely played this season, totaling just 390 yards from scrimmage on 74 touches. Defensive end JJ Watt broke his hand in practice this week, but he’s expected to play and, as Jason Pierre-Paul has shown, hands aren’t the most important thing for defensive linemen. The Texans rank 7th in rate of moving the chains differential and, with outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and cornerback Kareem Jackson now healthy, they’re as talented a team as that suggests in a league that seems to be less talented across the board this season. I don’t love going against New England this week, but this is just too many points.
New England Patriots 23 Houston Texans 20
Pick against the spread: Houston +4.5