Houston Texans (0-0) at New England Patriots (0-0)
The Texans are a little bit overrated coming into the season. They have a huge upside and will obviously be better than last season, with the return of key players like Deshaun Watson, JJ Watt, and Whitney Mercilus from injury, but I don’t expect Watson to be as productive as he was when healthy as a rookie for a few reasons. For one, he had an unsustainably low drop rate from his receivers, who dropped just 0.98% of Watson’s passes, but 6.23% of passes from Houston’s other quarterbacks. I would expect that number to be closer to the league average of 5.28% in 2018, so even if he does play as well as he did last season, his numbers could take a hit simply because his receivers drop more passes.
He also might not play as well either. Not only is he coming off the injury, but now the league has had an off-season to study his tape and opponents likely won’t be caught off guard as much by his playing style. On top of that, we’ve only seen him for about 6.5 games. We’ve seen good quarterbacks look like elite quarterbacks for a 6 game stretch before and then look like a below average quarterback during another 6 game stretch (think Cam Newton).
Watson could prove me wrong and could continue developing into one of the top few quarterbacks in the league, but I don’t think we’ve seen enough of him to confidently say he’s going to be one of the top 3-4 quarterbacks in the league this year, which is where the MVP odds have him. Outside of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller (the latter of whom could be out this week), Watson does not have much talent around him on offense, especially on the offensive line, and, while their defense should be better with Watt and Mercilus back, there’s no guarantee both return to their top form and they have other weaknesses on defense, especially in the secondary.
I have the Patriots 5 wins better than the Texans in my season previews. This line is only at 6, so we are getting some line value with New England, but I am not too eager to bet the Patriots early in the season. I think they will hit their stride by mid-season like they always do, but they don’t have Julian Edelman for 4 games and they have a lot of new faces, so it could take them a few weeks to get into the swing of things. They are my pick here, but this is a low confidence pick.
New England Patriots 31 Houston Texans 20
Pick against the spread: New England -6