Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) at Houston Texans (3-11)
The Texans have managed to win three games, but none of their wins have been impressive and they are still arguably the worst team in the league. Two of their wins, including their win last week, came against the Jaguars, who are also arguably the worst team in the league. Their first win over the Jaguars came way back in week one when veteran Tyrod Taylor was starting at quarterback instead of raw rookie Davis Mills and when the Texans’ offensive line was much healthier. The second win came last week in a game in which the Texans lost both the first down rate and yards per play battle by significant amounts, only winning the game because they overperformed on third down (10/18 vs. 3/14), which is not predictive.
The Texans’ other win came in Tennessee against a Titans team that is at least capable, but the Texans also lost the yards per play and first down rate battle by significant amounts in that game, only winning because of a +5 turnover margin, which is also not predictive. On top of that, the Texans 11 losses have come by an average of 18.55 points per game. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on yards per play and first down rate and is more predictive than final scores, the Texans still rank just 32nd, 31st, and 9th on offense, defense, and special teams respectively, while their mixed efficiency not only is dead last in the league, but they are five points behind the second worst team.
The Chargers are favored by 10.5 points here on the road, but they rank 10th in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency, about 16 points better than the Texans, and they travel pretty well because they don’t have much homefield advantage (22-14 ATS on the road since moving to Los Angeles) and the Texans are so bad that my calculated line has the Chargers favored by 13.5 (using a lesser adjustment for homefield advantage), so we’re still getting line value with them.
A lot has been made about all the Chargers are missing due to COVID, including dominant center Corey Linsley, dominant edge defender Joey Bosa, talented starting wide receiver Mike Williams, and featured running back Austin Ekeler, but the Texans are also missing key players to COVID, with top wide receiver Brandin Cooks and top edge defender Jonathan Greenard both out, among others.
If anything, the Texans’ losses may be more damaging, as they don’t have the talent on the rest of this roster to make up for the absence of two players who are arguably the two best on the entire roster at their respective positions. I am hoping this line will drop to 10 before gametime as bettors overreact to the Chargers’ COVID absences and ignore the Texans’ absences, but even at 10.5 I would take the Chargers for pick ‘em purposes. This is a low confidence pick for now, but could be updated if the line moves.
Los Angeles Chargers 24 Houston Texans 10
Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -10.5