Houston Texans (2-0) at New England Patriots (2-0)
Last week, the early line was 3.5 in favor of the hometown New England Patriots. When I saw that, my first thought was New England was likely to cover. Home non-divisional favorites on Thursday nights are 34-16 ATS since 1989. Thursday night games are tough enough for players, but they’re especially tough when you have to go on the road and face a comparable or better opponent, unless that opponent is a divisional opponent that you play twice a year. This game fit all 3 criteria and the Patriots had proven themselves to still be a tough opponent, even without Tom Brady, with a win in Arizona week 1.
Of course, the Patriots lost backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo last week, which changed matters a lot. Now the Patriots are in a tough situation, scrambling to get 3rd string quarterback Jacoby Brissett, a 3rd round rookie out of NC State, ready to start on a short week. That also changed the line as now the Patriots are underdogs of 3 points at home. That seems like far too drastic of a swing. In fact, the New England/Arizona line only shifted about 6 points immediately after Brady’s suspension was upheld.
The Patriots went from leading 24-3 when Garoppolo went down to barely hanging on by the final score of 31-24 aftewards, but that’s not really an indictment on Brissett. The Patriots’ defense played a lot better in the first half than the second half and Brissett didn’t even have that many pass attempts, as the Patriots just tried to run out the clock with what was once a big lead (as high as 31-3 at one point). Brissett only threw 9 passes in a little over a half, completing 6 of them for 92 yards. Two of the 3 incompletions were drops by Julian Edelman that were not in the best spot. All in all, for coming into the game cold off the bench, Brissett wasn’t bad and could conceivably lead a run heavy offense to victory, though he’s a major question mark.
The Texans have a strong defense so the Patriots are unlikely to win a shootout, but they have a good defense as well and figure to be able to keep the Texans’ offense in check on a short week. The Texans remain without left tackle Duane Brown with injury, while the Patriots are reportedly likely to get back both linebacker Dont’a Hightower and tight end Rob Gronkowski from injury. One in 6 games are decided by a field goal or less, so I like the Patriots’ chances of at least keeping this one close at home. They’re 41-22 ATS as underdogs under Bill Belichick, including 8-6 ATS without Brady, and 12-3 ATS as home underdogs under Bill Belichick, including 2-1 ATS without Brady. In some places, this line has dropped to 1.5-2.5, in which case this is a lower confidence play, but it’s a money play at 3 for sure.
New England Patriots 16 Houston Texans 13 Upset Pick +130
Pick against the spread: New England +3