New York Jets (2-8) at Houston Texans (2-8)
The Texans won last week in upset fashion, going into Tennessee and knocking off the previously 8-2 Titans, who were favored by 10 points in that game. However, the Titans have not been as good as their record has suggested this season and they have been even worse than that since losing feature back Derrick Henry, so that win isn’t as impressive as it seems, especially since the primary reason the Texans won is they managed to win the turnover battle by 5, in a 9-point Texans win. Turnover margin is highly non-predictive on a week-to-week basis, so the Texans definitely won’t be able to count on that every week and, in more predictive metrics, the Texans lost the first down rate battle by 9.47% and the yards per play battle by 2.2 yards per play.
That was also the Texans first win since back in week one, when they beat a Jaguars team that has proven to also be one of the worst in the league. In between, the Texans lost 8 straight games, with the average margin of defeat coming by 18.3 points per game. Even that doesn’t show quite how bad the Texans were during that stretch, as that average margin of defeat would be a lot higher if the Patriots weren’t missing most of their offensive line in their 3-point win, a game in which the Patriots still won the first down rate battle by 8.67%, and if the Texans hadn’t scored 22 meaningless garbage points against the Rams in a game in which they were down 38-0 going into the 4th quarter.
Even with last week’s win, the Texans still rank 32nd, 31st, and 24th in offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency, adjusted for schedule, and, in terms of mixed efficiency, the Texans don’t just rank dead last in the NFL, but they are about 4.5 points than any other team in the league. Their win last week also puts them in a bad spot, as teams tend to struggle the week after pulling a huge upset, covering the spread at a 41.7% rate all-time after a win as double digits underdogs, including 40.3% after a win as divisional double digit underdogs.
That effect could be even more pronounced in this game, as the Texans’ season is still lost at this point and last week’s win over the Titans was the equivalent of the Texans’ Super Bowl. It’s hard to imagine them giving anywhere near that level of effort this week against a fellow 2-8 team in the Jets. The Jets are also one of the worst teams in the league, but their mixed efficiency, which ranks 29th in the league, is still about six points better than the Texans.
The Texans did get a boost a couple weeks ago when veteran starting quarterback returned from injury and replaced overmatched rookie Davis Mills under center, so the gap between these two teams isn’t quite as big as their mixed efficiency rankings show, but Taylor is still a borderline starting caliber quarterback at best, so it’s not enough of a boost to justify the Texans being favored by 2.5 points in this matchup, especially given that they figure to be flat. My calculated line has the Jets favored by 1 point, even before taking into account that the Texans are in a bad spot. I would need a full field goal to bet on the Jets confidently against the spread, but the money line at +120 is a good value, as the Jets should be considered no worse than 50/50 to win this game, and the Jets are still the pick for pick ‘em purposes.
Update: This line has moved up to a field goal on Sunday morning. This is likely because Corey Davis was ruled out for the Jets, but I made this pick and this calculated line (Jets -1) with that in mind. The Texans don’t deserve to be favored by a field goal over anyone, even before you take into account that they could be flat after winning their “Super Bowl” last week. I know the Texans beat a same caliber Jaguars team week one at home with Tyrod Taylor under center, but the Texans’ offensive line was a lot healthier in that game with their two talented offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Marcus Cannon. Without them, the Texans have struggled to block anyone. If you can get the full field goal, I would recommend a small bet.
New York Jets 23 Houston Texans 20 Upset Pick +130
Pick against the spread: NY Jets +3