Houston Texans at New York Jets: 2018 Week 15 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (9-4) at New York Jets (4-9)

This is a tough one. On one hand, the Texans have played a lot of close games this year. They are 9-4, but have just 4 wins by more than a touchdown, including just one road win by more than a touchdown, relevant considering this line is Houston -7. On the other hand, the Jets are one of the worst teams in the league, especially without suspended every down linebacker Darron Lee, so this line seems about right, even if the Texans are not quite as good as their record suggests.

The Jets won in Buffalo last week, but they lost the first down rate battle in that game by 2.66%, winning primarily because they won the turnover margin and converted a 4th down, which is not something that they can count on every week. The previous week, the Jets almost won in Tennessee, but they lost the first down rate battle in that game by 18.59%, losing the game despite blocking a punt and scoring a defensive touchdown. On the season, they rank just 31st in first down rate differential at -6.49%, significantly behind the #11 ranked Texans, who are at +2.08%. We’re not getting any line value with the Texans, so this is a no confidence pick, but they make more sense for pick ‘em purposes.

Houston Texans 24 New York Jets 16

Pick against the spread: Houston -7

Confidence: None

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (6-6) at Houston Texans (9-3)

Injuries have been the story this season for the Colts. They started out the season as arguably the most injury plagued team in the league and went 1-5 as a result, but then they ripped off 5 straight wins, before injuries started to pile up again. That winning streak ended in Jacksonville last week in a 6-0 loss and, though the Colts did win the first down rate battle by 6.39% in that one, the Colts injury situation gets even worse this week, just in time for a key matchup against the division leading Texans. Center Ryan Kelly and tight end Jack Doyle remain out and defensive tackles Margus Hunt and Denico Autry and top receiver TY Hilton are all highly questionable, after barely practicing this week.

It’s a shame because if they were healthy I’d be all over the Colts as 4.5-point road underdogs here in Houston. The Texans beat the Colts in Indianapolis earlier this season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to cover or even win this week. In fact, divisional home favorites are just 41-68 ATS since 2002 against teams they’ve previously beaten that season as divisional road underdogs and they only have a 55% winning percentage, despite being favored by 5.1 points on average.

The Texans are 9-3, but they haven’t really been blowing teams out, with an average margin of victory of 9.11 points per game and 4 wins by 3 points or fewer. The Colts are only 6-6, but their average margin of victory is 15.33 points per game and they’re only slightly behind the Texans in point differential (+67 vs. +46), despite being 3 games behind them in the standings. In terms of first down rate differential, the Colts are actually ahead of the Texans, ranking 7th at +3.73%, while the Texans are 12th at +2.23%. The Texans have a slight edge in strength of schedule, as the Colts have played one of the easiest schedules in the league, but if the Colts were healthy I’d have this line calculated at Houston -3 at the most. At less than 100%, we’re not getting the same line value, but they still seem like the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Final Update: TY Hilton, Margus Hunt, and Denico Autry are all active, but the line is still Indianapolis +4. Ryan Kelly is still a big loss upfront for the Colts, but they have a +13 offensive touchdown margin on the season (as opposed to +1 for the Texans), despite being banged up for much of the year. Even without Kelly, they are still healthier than they’ve been for most of the season. I like getting more than a field goal with them in a divisional revenge game.

Houston Texans 24 Indianapolis Colts 23

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis +4

Confidence: Medium

Cleveland Browns at Houston Texans: 2018 Week 13 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (4-6-1) at Houston Texans (8-3)

The Browns have been playing pretty well lately. Their offense has moved the chains at a 44.75% rate in 3 games since firing Hue Jackson and Todd Haley, while their defense has allowed a first down rate of just 33.78% in 7 games started and finished by stud middle linebacker Joe Schobert, who is back healthy for the Browns. Their offensive improvement can also be credited to the Browns’ trade of Carlos Hyde to the Jaguars, which allowed rookie running back Nick Chubb to flourish as the lead back.

The Texans are obviously also playing well, winning 8 straight games, but most of the games have been close, including 4 wins by 3 points or fewer, and they haven’t had the toughest schedule, with their best win record wise coming against the early season Cowboys, now at 7-5, in overtime by a field goal. The Browns, on the other hand, have had the 8th toughest schedule thus far this year in terms of opponents’ record. I like the Browns chances of making the Texans play another close game. They’re an underrated team right now and are better than their record. They’ve also only lost 3 games by more than 3 points. They’re worth a small bet this week.

Houston Texans 20 Cleveland Browns 17

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +6

Confidence: Medium

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (5-5) at Houston Texans (7-3)

The Titans are high on my underrated list right now, following a tough performance in Indianapolis last week. They lost that game 38-10, but the Colts have been playing legitimately great football for weeks (they’re also high on my underrated list) and the Titans also lost Marcus Mariota in the first half of that game with a stinger in his neck, which certainly didn’t help. As a result, this line shifted from Houston -4 on the early line to Houston -6.5 this week, which I think is a major overreaction. Mariota’s injury is not considered serious and he should be good to go this week after getting in full practices on both Friday and Saturday. Whenever Mariota is healthy this is a legitimately dangerous team.

The Titans have a strong defense that ranks 9th in first down rate allowed at 34.42%. They’re a middle of the pack team in first down rate differential on the season, ranking 20th at -1.86%, but that’s because Mariota was limited with an elbow injury for most of the first half of the season, which really limited their offense. When he’s at full strength, the Titans have a capable offense to complement their strong defense and they are a tough team to handle as a result.

Prior to last week’s game in Indianapolis, the Titans covered their previous 3 games, losing by 1 on a failed 2-point conversion against a now 7-3 Chargers team, pulling an upset win in Dallas against the Cowboys, who haven’t lost since, and of course blowing out the Patriots, who were playing as well as anyone going into that game. Given that, it really makes no sense that this line is this high. In fact, I have these two teams close to even in my book, so we’re getting significant line value with the visitors.

The Texans are 7-3, but they haven’t exactly been blowing teams out. Just 2 of their 7 wins came by more than a touchdown and 4 of them came by 3 points or fewer, including a pair of overtime wins. I wish we were getting a full touchdown with Tennessee, but I expect this to be a close game, one that Tennessee could win straight up, so they’re still a great bet at +6 or +6.5. The only thing that stopped me from making this my Pick of the Week is the off chance that Mariota gets knocked out of the game again, as he has not been durable throughout his career.

Houston Texans 19 Tennessee Titans 17

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +6.5

Confidence: High

Houston Texans at Washington Redskins: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (6-3) at Washington Redskins (6-3)

These two teams are both 6-3, but the Texans are by far the better team right now. On the season, they have a +32 point differential, as opposed to a +1 point differential for the Redskins. That’s despite the fact that the Redskins have a +11 turnover margin, something they will not be able to count on for the rest of the season, given how unpredictable turnover margin is week-to-week. The Redskins are also in a much worse injury situation, missing starting cornerback Quinton Dunbar, starting wide receivers Paul Richardson and Jamison Crowder, and three starting offensive linemen, including their two best: left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brandon Scherff.

Two weeks ago, the Redskins had a disastrous home loss to the Falcons and, though they won last week in Tampa Bay, they did not look good in doing it. They only scored one touchdown on the worst scoring defense in the league and, though they held the Buccaneers to 3 points, they allowed 501 yards in doing it, as the Buccaneers missed 2 field goals, committed 4 turnovers, and didn’t score a touchdown in 5 red zone appearances. The Buccaneers won the first down battle 29 to 15 and pushed the Redskins down to 26th in the league on the season in first down rate differential at -3.71%. The Texans, by contrast, rank 9th at +3.06% and are much healthier coming out of the bye.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost all line value with the Texans in the past week, as this line strangely shifted from even on the early line last week to Houston -3 this week, despite the Texans being on bye and the Redskins winning in Tampa Bay. The odds makers probably just realized they originally released a bad line. Even at -3, I still like the Texans, as they’re in a great spot coming out of the bye. Road favorites of 3+ are 48-16 ATS after a bye since 2002, as being away from home does not affect good teams that are rested nearly as much as normal. This is worth a small bet.

Houston Texans 20 Washington Redskins 13

Pick against the spread: Houston -3

Confidence: Medium

Houston Texans at Denver Broncos: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (5-3) at Denver Broncos (3-5)

Earlier in the week, I would have probably taken the Broncos in this one, as I had these two teams about even in my rankings, following Houston’s loss of wide receiver Will Fuller for the season with a torn ACL, and the Broncos are favored by just 1 point at home. However, then the Demaryius Thomas trade happened, with the former Pro-Bowl wide receiver going to Houston from Denver for a 4th round pick in a deadline deal.

That doesn’t move the needle much in either direction for either team right away, as the Broncos have a great internal replacement for Thomas in second round rookie Courtland Sutton and Thomas will likely be limited in his first game in Houston, without much knowledge of the playbook. Thomas also hasn’t played at his peak level in years, now in his age 31 season. However, he will bring knowledge of the Broncos’ playbook, which could be invaluable for the Texans this week. For that reason, I’m taking the Texans, but I can’t be confident in them given that we’re getting no line value with them.

Houston Texans 21 Denver Broncos 20

Pick against the spread: Houston +1

Confidence: None

Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans: 2018 Week 8 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Houston Texans (4-3)

Typically the rule of thumb for betting Thursday Night Football is to take the home team as long as they are comparable to or better than their opponents and as long as it’s not a division game. Non-divisional home favorites are 32-15 ATS all-time on Thursday nights, including 13-5 ATS as favorites of a touchdown or more. That makes a lot of sense, as it’s very tough for a team to travel on a short week and face an unfamiliar opponent, especially if that opponent has a talent advantage as well.

That trend is certainly in play here, with the Dolphins traveling to Houston on a short week as 7.5 point underdogs. Putting the Dolphins at even more of a disadvantage is the fact that they’ll be without arguably their two best pass catchers due to injury, with both Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills sidelined for this one. The Dolphins have solid depth at the wide receiver position, with both Jakeem Grant and Devante Parker capable of filling roles in 3-wide sets with slot receiver Danny Amendola, but this passing game could easily be out of sync with such limited practice time this week.

The Dolphins also have other problems besides the receiving corps. They’re 4-3, but they have a -26 point differential (4 wins by a combined 26 points, 3 losses by a combined 52 points) and rank 23rd in first down rate differential at -2.51%. They’re also starting backup quarterback Brock Osweiler for the 3rd straight week and, while he might not actually be that much of a downgrade from mediocre starter Ryan Tannehill, him starting just makes it more likely this passing game will be out of sync on a short week, with a backup quarterback throwing to unfamiliar receivers.

The Texans have some issues on offense too, with Deshaun Watson at less than 100%, playing behind arguably the worst offensive line in football, but their defense has played like a top-5 unit this year with all of their key players back healthy, ranking 3rd in first down rate allowed at 31.22%, only behind the Ravens and Jaguars. Overall, they rank 8th in first down rate differential at +2.47%. I wish we were getting more line value with the Texans, as I have these two teams about 4.5 points apart in my roster rankings, suggesting this line is accurate, but they are the pick for pick ‘em purposes and I would definitely bet them if the line went back down to 7 where it briefly opened, as the Texans should be able to win this game by at least a touchdown.

Houston Texans 24 Miami Dolphins 13

Pick against the spread: Houston -7.5

Confidence: Low