Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Houston Texans (4-3)
Typically the rule of thumb for betting Thursday Night Football is to take the home team as long as they are comparable to or better than their opponents and as long as it’s not a division game. Non-divisional home favorites are 32-15 ATS all-time on Thursday nights, including 13-5 ATS as favorites of a touchdown or more. That makes a lot of sense, as it’s very tough for a team to travel on a short week and face an unfamiliar opponent, especially if that opponent has a talent advantage as well.
That trend is certainly in play here, with the Dolphins traveling to Houston on a short week as 7.5 point underdogs. Putting the Dolphins at even more of a disadvantage is the fact that they’ll be without arguably their two best pass catchers due to injury, with both Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills sidelined for this one. The Dolphins have solid depth at the wide receiver position, with both Jakeem Grant and Devante Parker capable of filling roles in 3-wide sets with slot receiver Danny Amendola, but this passing game could easily be out of sync with such limited practice time this week.
The Dolphins also have other problems besides the receiving corps. They’re 4-3, but they have a -26 point differential (4 wins by a combined 26 points, 3 losses by a combined 52 points) and rank 23rd in first down rate differential at -2.51%. They’re also starting backup quarterback Brock Osweiler for the 3rd straight week and, while he might not actually be that much of a downgrade from mediocre starter Ryan Tannehill, him starting just makes it more likely this passing game will be out of sync on a short week, with a backup quarterback throwing to unfamiliar receivers.
The Texans have some issues on offense too, with Deshaun Watson at less than 100%, playing behind arguably the worst offensive line in football, but their defense has played like a top-5 unit this year with all of their key players back healthy, ranking 3rd in first down rate allowed at 31.22%, only behind the Ravens and Jaguars. Overall, they rank 8th in first down rate differential at +2.47%. I wish we were getting more line value with the Texans, as I have these two teams about 4.5 points apart in my roster rankings, suggesting this line is accurate, but they are the pick for pick ‘em purposes and I would definitely bet them if the line went back down to 7 where it briefly opened, as the Texans should be able to win this game by at least a touchdown.
Houston Texans 24 Miami Dolphins 13
Pick against the spread: Houston -7.5