Houston Texans (1-8) at Tennessee Titans (8-2)
Expected by many to be the worst team in the league this season, the Texans surprisingly won their week one game by double digits, but everything has been downhill since then. Their win no longer looks impressive, as their opponents, the Jacksonville Jaguars, have proven to also be one of the worst teams in the league and, on top of that, the Texans haven’t won since, losing 8 straight games with most of them not being close, averaging a margin of defeat of 18.3 points.
The Texans are coming off their bye week and got starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor back from injury in their last game before the bye, for the first time since week 2, but the Texans still lost to the lowly Dolphins even with Taylor back in the lineup. It was primarily Taylor’s strong play that led the Texans to their week one victory, but the career journeyman can’t be counted on to play that well for an extended period of time and, while he was out, the Texans lost left tackle Laremy Tunsil to injury, knocking out arguably their best player and one of their few building blocks. At least until Tunsil returns, it’s hard to find situations where the Texans would be worth picking.
This seems like one of them though. The Titans are 9-2, but most of their wins have been close, with just two of their wins coming by double digits, relevant considering they are 10-point favorites in this matchup. Their offense also isn’t nearly as good without injured feature back Derrick Henry and, to a lesser extent, injured wide receiver Julio Jones. The Titans have won both of their games without Henry, but their offense did not perform effectively in either.
They beat the Rams convincingly on the scoreboard, winning by 12 for one of their two double digit wins on the season, but the Titans also gained just 3.5 yards per play and it would have at least been a much closer game if the Titans’ defense did not get two pick sixes, which won’t happen every week. That game was then followed up last week to a near loss at home to the Saints, who were missing several key offensive players. They should move to 10-2 with a win here, but I would question if their offense can be effective enough to win this game by double digits, even against a terrible Texans defense.
My calculated line still suggests we should take the Titans, but the Titans are also in a terrible spot, with a much bigger and tougher game against the Patriots on deck next week. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 42.5% rate all-time before facing an opponent with a winning percentage that is 50% higher or more than their current opponent’s winning percentage and that is the case in this matchup. I definitely would not recommend betting the Texans, but this seems like a rare case where they make a little bit more sense for pick ‘em purposes, as the Titans are likely to look completely past the Texans, on a long winning streak, with a huge matchup on deck.
Tennessee Titans 23 Houston Texans 14
Pick against the spread: Houston +10