New England Patriots (1-3) at Houston Texans (1-3)
The Patriots are 1-3, but they’ve had some bad luck to get to that point, as two of their three losses came by a combined 3 points in games in which they lost three fumbles. Fumbles and fumble recovery rate are among the least predictive stats and the Patriots have been as disciplined holding onto the football as any team in the league in recent years, so it’s unlikely that will be a long-term problem, while more predictive metrics like yards per play and first down rate give the Patriots a statistical edge in both their loss to the Dolphins and their loss to the Buccaneers.
Their other loss was not nearly as close, losing to the Saints by 15, but they also could have been caught looking forward to their huge matchup with the Buccaneers the following week in that game. The Patriots continue to have bad luck though, now in the form of significant missing personnel, as their offensive line that was already struggling without injured right tackle Trent Brown will now be without right guard Shaq Mason and likely left guard Michael Onwenu and left tackle Isaiah Wynn, four of their five week one starters from a group that was supposed to be a strength of this team.
The good news is the Patriots face a Texans team that is easily the worst in the league without rookie quarterback Davis Mills under center, as they have not been remotely competitive since losing quarterback Tyrod Taylor to injury. Mills has looked lost as an NFL quarterback so far, but if possible, I expect him to look even worse this week, given Bill Belichick’s track record against rookie quarterbacks. We saw this defense completely confuse a more talented rookie just a few weeks ago and this week could be even worse.
Unfortunately, this spread (New England -8) is too high for me to confidently bet the Patriots without their whole offensive line on the road, even against a team as bad as the Texans. The Texans offense should struggle to sustain drives all game, so the Patriots won’t have to score too many points to cover, but if the Patriots allow a couple turnovers without their offensive line, the Texans could make this closer than expected.
My calculated line is actually right where this line is at New England -8 and, with that in mind, I’m actually going to take the Texans for pick ‘em purposes, as teams tend to bounce back after a huge blowout loss like the Texans had last week, covering at about a 58.5% rate all-time after a loss by 35 points or more and a 55.9% rate all-time after being shutout. That’s not nearly enough for me to take the Texans with any confidence, but it’s a tiebreaker in a matchup where the line is about right.
New England Patriots 16 Houston Texans 9
Pick against the spread: Houston +8