Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (11-5) at Houston Texans (4-12)

The Titans lost to the Texans by nine points in Tennessee a few weeks ago, but that was a very fluky game in which the Titans won the first down rate battle by 9.47% and the yards per play battle by 2.25 yards per play, but lost because they lost the turnover margin by five, which is not predictive at all. In fact, teams that lose the turnover battle by 5 against a divisional opponent on average have a turnover margin of -0.1 in a same season revenge game.

The Texans have won four games, but they are still arguably the worst team in the league, as they have had some non-predictive things go their way in three of their four wins, with the exception being a week one win at home against a terrible Jaguars team, when the Texans were starting veteran Tyrod Taylor and 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 win over the Chargers, the Texans won the turnover battle by 3, but lost the first down rate and yards per play battle by 2.86% and 0.49 against the Chargers. Meanwhile, in the Texans’ losses, they are getting outscored by 18.33 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 three points behind the second worst team.

The Titans have gone 5-2 in one-score games and are not the same offense without Derrick Henry, but Henry has not been their only absence in recent weeks and, aside from Henry being out, the Titans are as healthy on offense as they’ve been since Henry went down, with their whole offensive line back together and their top two wide receivers AJ Brown and Julio Jones in the lineup. They’re healthier than they were the first time they played the Texans and if they win the first down rate and yards per play battle by large margins again, that should translate on the scoreboard this time. This line is high, favoring the Titans by 10 on the road, but my calculated line is Tennessee -11.5 and the Texans have nine double digit losses this season, so there’s at least enough here for the Titans to be worth taking for pick ‘em purposes.

Tennessee Titans 24 Houston Texans 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -10

Confidence: Low

Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Chargers at Houston Texans: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Low

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (2-11) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11)

Both of these teams are 2-11 and among the worst teams in the league, but the Jaguars are still the significantly better team, even if only by default. The Jaguars hold a slight edge in point differential (-160 vs. -179), despite the Texans holding a significant edge in turnover differential (+1 vs. -19), which is not a predictive metric. In more predictive metrics, the Jaguars rank 30th, 23rd, and 26th respectively in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency, while the Texans rank 32nd, 31st, and 19th respectively and are seven points behind the Jaguars in mixed efficiency. 

The Texans beat the Jaguars by double digits in Houston earlier this season, but that was way back in week one when the Texans had a healthier offensive line and were starting veteran Tyrod Taylor at quarterback rather than raw rookie Davis Mills. With Mills, the Texans have been even worse this season, losing all eight of his starts and by an average of 18.5 points per game, an average that would be even worse 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.

Earlier this week, the Jaguars were 3-point favorites at home and I thought I would end up betting on them at that number, especially after the news broke that the Jaguars would be firing highly unpopular head coach Urban Meyer, but Meyer’s dismissal has led to the Jaguars now being favored by 5 points. My calculated line still has the Jaguars favored by 9, but I think we lost line value with the line moving two points for the coaching change, as interim head coach Darrell Bevell is a very uninspiring replacement and is a big part of the problem with this offense. I may still bet on the Jaguars, but I want to wait and see what the COVID situation will be for both teams first and I hope we can get a better line before gametime.

Update: I am comfortable taking the Jaguars for a small bet. One thing I didn’t mention earlier is that the Jaguars are healthier now than they have been. They haven’t had a lot of injuries, but cornerback Shaq Griffin (two games missed) and center Brandon Linder (six games missed) are among the Jaguars’ best players on either side of the ball and both have missed significant time, with this week being the first time they will play in the same game since week 5. With the Urban Meyer situation behind them, they should be able to beat a horrendous Texans team with ease.

Jacksonville Jaguars 26 Houston Texans 17

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -5

Confidence: Medium

Seattle Seahawks at Houston Texans: 2021 Week 14 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (4-8) at Houston Texans (2-10)

The Texans are 2-10 and don’t have the worst record in the league, but they are undoubtedly the worst team in the league. Their first win came back in week one when their offensive line was healthier and it came against a Jaguars team that is also terrible, while their second win was a game against the Titans in which the Texans won the turnover margin by 5, an unpredictive metric, while losing the yards per play and first down rate battle convincingly, by margins of 2.2 and 9.47% respectively, which are much more predictive metrics.

Meanwhile, the Texans’ ten losses have come by an average of 18.3 points per game and that number could be even 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. 

Overall, the Texans rank 32nd, 26th, and 21st in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency respectively and, in mixed efficiency, they don’t just rank dead last in the NFL, but they are more than 6.5 points behind the next worst team. There was some hope they would play better when they got veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor back from injury, to replace raw rookie Davis Mills, but Taylor was barely an upgrade and was pulled in the middle of last week’s game so the team could get a better look at Davis Mills as a potential long-term starter, a chance he will get as the starter for the rest of the season.

It’s hard to see a circumstance where I would bet on the Texans and it would take a lot for me to even pick them against the spread, but this game is a situation where they make some sense as a pick, as they are in an incredible spot. The Texans lost 31-3 at home to the Colts last week, but teams tend to bounce back after a big loss as home underdogs like that, especially if teams are home underdogs again, as teams cover at a 59.0% rate all-time as home underdogs the week following a loss as home underdogs by 14 points or more. This is also the Texans’ third straight home game, a situation in which teams cover at a 55.2% rate.

Meanwhile, on the other side, the Seahawks have a much tougher game against the Rams on deck and could overlook the Texans or take their foot off the gas in the second half with a big lead and allow the Texans to backdoor cover this 8.5-point spread. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 42.7% rate all-time before facing an opponent with a winning percentage that is more than 50% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage, which applies here. My calculated line actually has the Seahawks favored by 11 points, with the Texans being the worst team in the league and the Seahawks being much better than their record with Russell Wilson rounding back into form, and, because of that, I can’t take the Texans with any confidence, but they could make this more of a game than people are expecting.

Seattle Seahawks 31 Houston Texans 23

Pick against the spread: Houston +8.5

Confidence: None

Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

Indianapolis Colts (6-6) at Houston Texans (2-9)

The Texans shockingly pulled the upset over the Titans in Tennessee two weeks ago, but that was a fluke win driven by a +5 turnover margin, which is not predictive. In more predictive metrics, the Titans won the first down rate and yards per play battle by significant amounts and likely would have won by multiple scores if not for all of the turnovers, despite the fact that the Titans are a middling team at best without Derrick Henry. The Texans’ only other win came against the lowly Jaguars, all the way back in week 1, when the Texans had a healthier offensive line. 

In all of their other games, the Texans have lost, in many cases by a wide margin. Six of their nine losses have come by double digits and they have an average margin of defeat of 17 points per game. That martin of defeat would be even 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. In schedule adjusted efficiency, the Texans rank 32nd, 26th, and 22nd on offense, defense, and special teams respectively, with a mixed efficiency that not only ranks dead last in the lineup, but by six points behind the next worst team.

The Texans have been better since getting quarterback Tyrod Taylor back from injury, replacing raw rookie Davis Mills under center, and they have not lost by double digits with him in the lineup, but he’s only played four full games and the Colts are the toughest team he has faced thus far. The Colts are just 6-6, but their +57 point differential is much better than their record (7th best in the NFL) and they haven’t lost by more than one score since the first three weeks of the season, when they were dealing with significant injury issues, with their two best offensive linemen (Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith) and quarterback Carson Wentz playing at much less than 100%. All three are healthy now.

On top of that, all of the Colts losses since their injury plagued 0-3 start have been to teams likely to make the post-season and all three were winnable, while their easiest four games have all resulted in wins, by an average of 14.8 points per game. In schedule adjusted efficiency, the Colts rank 7th, 27th, and 4th on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and, now healthier, they are an even better team than their 12th ranked mixed efficiency suggests. They should be able to win by multiple scores against the Texans, even in Houston, even with the Texans having Tyrod Taylor back.

Unfortunately, we have lost a lot of line value in the past week, with the Colts going from 7-point favorites on the early line to 10-point favorites this week. It’s not even really clear why, as the Texans lost to the Jets by one score as small favorites and the Colts lost to the Buccaneers by one score as small underdogs. It’s possible the odds makers and the public just realized that seven was a bad line and that the Texans’ win over the Titans was a complete fluke, but either way, we have lost significant line value. My calculated line has the Colts favored by 12.5, so we are still getting some line value, but I would need this line to drop back down below 10 to consider betting on the Colts. This should be a blowout, but I need a little bit better of a line to be confident betting on it.

Indianapolis Colts 30 Houston Texans 17

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis -10

Confidence: Low

New York Jets at Houston Texans: 2021 Week 12 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Medium

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (1-8) at Tennessee Titans (8-2)

Expected by many to be the worst team in the league this season, the Texans surprisingly won their week one game by double digits, but everything has been downhill since then. Their win no longer looks impressive, as their opponents, the Jacksonville Jaguars, have proven to also be one of the worst teams in the league and, on top of that, the Texans haven’t won since, losing 8 straight games with most of them not being close, averaging a margin of defeat of 18.3 points.

The Texans are coming off their bye week and got starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor back from injury in their last game before the bye, for the first time since week 2, but the Texans still lost to the lowly Dolphins even with Taylor back in the lineup. It was primarily Taylor’s strong play that led the Texans to their week one victory, but the career journeyman can’t be counted on to play that well for an extended period of time and, while he was out, the Texans lost left tackle Laremy Tunsil to injury, knocking out arguably their best player and one of their few building blocks. At least until Tunsil returns, it’s hard to find situations where the Texans would be worth picking.

This seems like one of them though. The Titans are 9-2, but most of their wins have been close, with just two of their wins coming by double digits, relevant considering they are 10-point favorites in this matchup. Their offense also isn’t nearly as good without injured feature back Derrick Henry and, to a lesser extent, injured wide receiver Julio Jones. The Titans have won both of their games without Henry, but their offense did not perform effectively in either. 

They beat the Rams convincingly on the scoreboard, winning by 12 for one of their two double digit wins on the season, but the Titans also gained just 3.5 yards per play and it would have at least been a much closer game if the Titans’ defense did not get two pick sixes, which won’t happen every week. That game was then followed up last week to a near loss at home to the Saints, who were missing several key offensive players. They should move to 10-2 with a win here, but I would question if their offense can be effective enough to win this game by double digits, even against a terrible Texans defense. 

My calculated line still suggests we should take the Titans, but the Titans are also in a terrible spot, with a much bigger and tougher game against the Patriots on deck next week. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 42.5% rate all-time before facing an opponent with a winning percentage that is 50% higher or more than their current opponent’s winning percentage and that is the case in this matchup. I definitely would not recommend betting the Texans, but this seems like a rare case where they make a little bit more sense for pick ‘em purposes, as the Titans are likely to look completely past the Texans, on a long winning streak, with a huge matchup on deck.

Tennessee Titans 23 Houston Texans 14

Pick against the spread: Houston +10

Confidence: None

Houston Texans at Miami Dolphins: 2021 Week 9 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (1-7) at Miami Dolphins (1-7)

The Texans’ season got off to a good start, as they won their week one game by multiple scores, but they have yet to win a game since. It also hasn’t been close most of the game, as they have been outscored 220-82 since that week 1 game, giving them a point differential of -122 which is the worst in the league. That margin looks even worse if you take out a 25-22 point loss to the Patriots, in a game in which the Patriots were missing most of their offensive line but still won the first down rate battle by 8.67%, and if you take out the meaningless 22 points they scored in garbage time against the Rams last week, after trailing 38-0 through 3 quarters.

The good news for the Texans is they will get quarterback Tyrod Taylor back this week, for the first time since the first half of their week 2 game against the Browns. That game was actually 10-10 at the time Taylor went down, with all of their subsequent struggles coming with raw rookie quarterback Davis Mills under center. Taylor doesn’t return to quite the same roster around him, with left tackle Laremy Tunsil, arguably the Texans’ best player, being the most notable absence, but with Taylor back under center, the Texans at least have a serviceable starting quarterback and they have had some success with him this season, so it was surprising to me that this line didn’t shift more than it did, with the Texans still being 5.5-point underdogs in Miami.

The Dolphins have also lost seven straight games since winning week one. They haven’t gotten blown out quite as much as the Texans have, but they still have lost by an average of 13.7 points per game and their win wasn’t as impressive as the Texans’ week one win. They did beat a more competitive team in the Patriots, while the Texans’ win came over the lowly Jaguars, but the Texans at least won convincingly, while the Dolphins won by just one point in a game in which the Patriots lost a pair of fumbles and won the first down rate and yards per play battle. If not for one of those two fumbles, the Dolphins could easily be winless right now.

The Dolphins were 10-6 a year ago, but a dropoff always seemed inevitable, as they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL). The Dolphins also aren’t getting any key reinforcements back this week, unlike the Texans, who get Taylor back. 

We’re still not getting much line value with the Texans, who, even with Taylor back, have such a bad roster that they are still a few points behind the Dolphins in my roster rankings and they are on the road as well, but with Taylor back the Texans are at least bettable in the right situation. This seems like that situation, as the Dolphins have to play a much tougher opponent next week (Baltimore) and they have to do it on a short week. 

Favorites cover at just a 41.5% rate all-time before Thursday Night Football, while favorites of 5+ cover at just a 42.8% rate all-time before facing a team with a winning percentage that is over 60% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage, both of which should work against the Dolphins this week. I am hoping we get a +6 because I’m not sure I am going to bet on the Texans at +5.5, but I still may end up taking them at that number if we can’t get a better number. This is a low confidence pick for now, but that could easily change.

Update: It doesn’t look like we are getting 6 and, in fact, this line has dropped to 5 in some places. Taylor is a significant upgrade under center for the Texans and should make them more competitive than they’ve been without him, but when you consider that they have lost by multiple scores in 6 of their last 7 games, with the exception being a game against a team missing their whole offensive line, even capable quarterback play is unlikely to save this team. The Texans are still the pick for pick ’em purposes, but I don’t think they’re bettable unless we happen to get 6.

Update: Tua Tagovailoa is surprisingly inactive for the Dolphins, meaning they will start Jacoby Brissett under center. That doesn’t make a difference though, because they’re comparable quarterbacks, so nothing changes here.

Miami Dolphins 20 Houston Texans 17

Pick against the spread: Houston +5.5

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Rams at Houston Texans: 2021 Week 8 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (6-1) at Houston Texans (1-6)

The Texans were expected by most to be one of, if not the worst team in the league this season. They threw some people off the scent of how terrible they were by winning week one, but that was because veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor played a great game and because the Texans were facing a Jaguars team that also ended up showing themselves to be one of the worst teams in the league. The Texans were tied with the Browns the following week at halftime, but lost Taylor to an injury and have completely bottomed out since, with raw rookie quarterback Davis Mills under center, supported by probably the worst roster in the league on both sides of the ball.

Overall, the Texans have been outscored 138-46 since Mills took over the starting job and that’s even worse if you take out a 25-22 loss to the Patriots in a game in which the Patriots were missing most of their offensive line but still won the first down rate battle by 8.67%. Their other four full games with Mills have been losses by an average score of 27.3 points. Also missing left tackle Laremy Tunsil, arguably their best player, the Texans are 14 points below average in my roster rankings and even that might underestimate how bad they are right now.

Despite that, we are actually getting some line value with the Texans as 16-point home underdogs against the Rams, as my calculated line has the Texans as 15-point underdogs. Favoring a team by 15 or 16 points is kind of splitting hairs, but the Rams are holding out their top offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth with injury in this game, which could easily hurt their ability to win by three scores or more, and the Rams are in a bad spot as well, with a much tougher game against the Titans on deck. Favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 42.6% rate all-time before facing an opponent who has a winning percentage over 50% higher than their current opponent. I can’t have any confidence in the Davis Mills led Texans unless I have a very good reason to, but they are my pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Los Angeles Rams 31 Houston Texans 16

Pick against the spread: Houston +16

Confidence: None