Green Bay Packers (4-1) at Houston Texans (1-5)
The Texans are just 1-5, but they’ve faced arguably the toughest schedule in the league, with 4 games against teams with 1 loss or fewer (Chiefs, Ravens, Steelers, Titans), and they’ve still played three of their five losses within one score, including 4th quarter leads over the undefeated Steelers and Titans. Of their two games against teams with losing records, one was against a Vikings team that is significantly better than its record and the other was an easy win over the Jaguars. I didn’t think the Texans were any better than a middling team entering the season, but I don’t think they’re much worse now. Adjusting for schedule, they have a first down rate differential of -1.06%.
The Texans have another tough game this week with the 4-1 Packers coming to town, but I would argue the Packers are behind all four of the aforementioned teams with one loss or fewer. The Packers’ blowout defeat in Tampa Bay last week is a significantly worse loss than any loss by any of the four other teams and even going into that game the Packers ranked just 11th in first down rate differential at +2.63%, due to a defense that ranks among the worst in the league in first down rate allowed. Now, the Packers aren’t far ahead of the Texans in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +0.14%.
Making matters worse, the Packers will be without stud left tackle David Bakhtiari, talented safety Darnell Savage, and possibly running back Aaron Jones. Jones’ absence wouldn’t be as big of a deal as most think because the Packers are deep at running back, but I still have this game close to 50/50 regardless of whether or not Jones plays, so we’re getting great line value with the Texans at +3.5. They might not pull the straight up upset, but about a quarter of games are decided by a field goal or less, so I like getting the 3.5 point cushion. This figures to be a shootout and the most likely outcome is either side winning by a field goal, two scenarios that would both lead to a Texans cover.
Green Bay Packers 34 Houston Texans 33
Pick against the spread: Houston +3.5