Houston Texans (4-11) at San Francisco 49ers (8-7)
The Texans have won four games, but are still arguably the worst team in the league. In three of their four wins, they have lost the first down rate battle and in two they have lost the yards per play battle, with the only game in which they won both being their week 1 win over the terrible Jaguars, back when the Texans had a much healthier offensive line. In their second win over the Jaguars a couple weeks ago, Texans lost the first down rate battle by 8.02%, only winning the game because they overperformed on third down (10/18 vs. 3/14), which is not as predictive as early downs.
In their upset wins over the Titans and the Chargers, the Texans won the turnover battle by 5 and 3 respectively, which is not predictive, but lost the first down rate and yards per play battle by 9.47% and 2.25 against the Titans and 2.86% and 0.49 against the Chargers, which are more predictive. Meanwhile, in the Texans’ losses, they are getting outscored by 18.55 points per game. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on first down rate and yards per play, the Texans still rank 32nd on offense, 30th on defense, and dead last in mixed efficiency, about 3.5 points behind the second worst team, the Jaguars.
The 49ers, meanwhile, rank 5th, 12th, 25th, and 8th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency, significantly better than their 8-7 record, as they have faced a tough schedule, have lost some close games (+43 point differential), and have had some issues with the turnover margin (-4 on the season). They’ll be without quarterback Jimmy Garopppolo in this one, but backup Trey Lance was the 3rd overall pick in this past draft and, while he didn’t play that well in his only career start in week five, he has reportedly made a lot of progress in practice in recent weeks.
Lance will also have his most important offensive teammates, wide receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle, and left tackle Trent Williams, who have all missed some time this season, including Kittle missing Lance’s first start, while the 49ers’ defense has their key players as well, with edge defender Nick Bosa, interior defender Arik Armstead, safety Jimmie Ward, and linebacker Fred Warner all healthy and in the lineup. This line is pretty high, favoring the 49ers by 12, but it’s a significant shift from a week ago, when the 49ers were favored by 15.
Garoppolo’s injury is part of that, but I also think that line movement is an overreaction to the Texans somewhat fluky win over the Chargers last week. Teams tend to struggle after upset victories like that anyway, covering at a 41.2% rate all-time after pulling off a double digit upset, as an upset win like that tends to trigger a line movement that more often than not proves to be an overreaction. My calculated line is still 15.5 and, if there are no major changes to either team’s COVID lists before gametime, I will strongly consider a bet on the 49ers around 12.
Update: I have decided I want to leave this as low confidence.
San Francisco 49ers 31 Houston Texans 16
Pick against the spread: San Francisco -12