Houston Texans (7-7) at Tennessee Titans (3-11)
The line has finally been released for this one. I was hoping that if Brian Hoyer were ruled out for the 2nd straight week with a concussion that the Texans would be underdogs, as that would have opened up two very powerful trends. Divisional home favorites are 22-58 ATS since 2002 before being divisional road underdogs, which the Titans will be in Indianapolis next week, and favorites are just 103-169 ATS since 2008 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites, which the Texans will be at home for the Jaguars next week.
Brandon Weeden, who was claimed off of waivers mid-season from the Cowboys, will start for the Texans this week, as Hoyer has reportedly been ruled out and regular backup TJ Yates tore his ACL in his first start of the season last week. However, not only are the Texans not underdogs, they’re actually favored by 4 points here on the road. Not only are those trends no longer in play, but now the Texans have to cover a line that’s more significant than people realize, as about 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer.
Fortunately for the Texans, they’re not the only one starting a backup quarterback, as talented Titans rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota will miss the final 2 games of the season with a knee sprain. Backup Zach Mettenberger will get the start and the Titans have moved the chains at a mere 59.26% rate in the 3 games where he’s been the team’s leader in pass attempts this season, including a week 8 start in Houston where the Titans moved the chains at a mere 53.57% rate in a 20-6 loss. In their other 11 games, they’ve moved the chains at a 72.78%.
Weeden is actually the 4th quarterback to start for the Texans this season, but that doesn’t matter much, as there isn’t really a notable difference between Weeden, Yates, and Ryan Mallett in terms of their ability to lead this offense. Brian Hoyer has been their best quarterback this year, as they’ve moved the chains at a 69.78% rate in the 10 games he’s led the team in pass attempts, as opposed to 68.06% in their other 4 games. The Texans’ defense, which ranks 8th in rate of moving the chains allowed, is easily the best unit in this game, as the Texans rank 11th in rate of moving the chains differential despite a stagnant offense, while the Titans rank 25th, despite an offense that’s been decent when Mariota’s been healthy. Still, it’s hard to be confident in the Texans to cover as 4 point road favorites with a backup quarterback. In fact, I’m going the other way for a no confidence pick, as this could easily be a field goal win for Houston.
Houston Texans 13 Tennessee Titans 10
Pick against the spread: Tennessee +4