Washington Redskins (0-0) at Houston Texans (0-0)
Both of these teams are going to be better than they were last season. These two teams finished worst and 2nd worst respectively last season, after both made the playoffs the previous season. The Texans went from 12 wins to 2 wins in 2013 and the Redskins went from 10-6 to 3-13. Teams that have big declines in win totals like that generally bounce back an average of half of the decline and I think both of these teams could easily do that and more.
The Texans were much better than their 2-14 record last season, finishing 21st in rate of moving the chains differential despite a schedule that was 10th hardest in the NFL in terms of DVOA. Their defense ranked 11th, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 69.40% rate. However, the offense was the issue, as they ranked 25th, moving the chains at a 66.87% rate. Still, they were better than their record. They just had some unlucky things not go their way.
They went 2-9 in games decided by a touchdown or less. As bad as their record was last season, they only lost 5 games by more than a touchdown and two of those came late in the season in their final 3 games after Gary Kubiak was fired and the team essentially quit. They had about 4.2 Pythagorean wins. On top of that they allowed 8 touchdowns off of returns, as opposed to 2 touchdowns off of returns for that. If we zeroed that out, they would have scored 262 points and allowed 372 points, which is a Pythagorean Expectation of 4.9 wins.
Speaking of turnovers, their turnover margin went to a league worst -20, as a result of a 44.44% fumble recovery rate, 26th in the NFL. They also picked off an absurd low amount of passes, 7, and they threw 22 interceptions. Turnover margins tend to be really inconsistent on a year-to-year and week-to-week basis though, as we’re talking about events that happen on such a small percentage of snaps. Teams with a turnover margin of +4 in a week on average have the same turnover margin the next week as a team that had a turnover margin of -4 the previous week, a turnover margin of about +0.0.
Meanwhile, teams that have a turnover margin of +15 or better in a season see their turnover margins drop by an average of about 15.8 the following season, resulting in 2.32 fewer wins. Teams with a turnover margin of -15 or worse in a season have an average turnover margin the following season of +2.04. Meanwhile, teams with a turnover margin of +15 or better in a season have an average turnover margin the following season of +3.42, a difference of about 1.38. If you’re using a team’s turnover margin from the previous season as a reason why they’re going to continue to struggle (or have success) the next season, it’s usually not going to work out well. They should be a lot better this season, especially with an upgrade at quarterback, Arian Foster and Brian Cushing coming back from injury, and Jadeveon Clowney coming in on defense.
The Redskins, meanwhile, get a healthy Robert Griffin back, and add in Jordan Reed, returning from injury, and DeSean Jackson, coming over from Philadelphia. Their defense isn’t much better than last season, even with Jason Hatcher coming in and they’re going to suffer more losses to injuries and suspensions (Brandon Meriweather is already suspended for two games) than last season, when they barely had any. However, their defense is only as bad as the Texans’ offense and their offense is as good as the Texans’ defense. These two teams are very evenly matchup and this line suggests it at Houston -3. I’m going to take the Texans and fade the public underdog, but I’m not confident at all.
Houston Texans 24 Washington Redskins 20
Pick against spread: Houston -3