Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (4-11) at Indianapolis Colts (3-12)

Both of these teams are absolutely terrible. The Texans’ defense has not been the same since losing both JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus back in week 6 and their offense has been abysmal since losing quarterback Deshaun Watson for the season in practice in week 9, thanks to horrible quarterback play and arguably even worse offensive line play. Things have actually gotten even worse for them in recent weeks, as they are now down to 3rd string quarterback TJ Yates, who is somehow noticeably worse than Tom Savage, and they are now without #1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who will miss the first game of his career this week with a calf injury.

Hopkins has been their entire offense since Savage went down, accounting for 294 of their 459 passing yards over the past 3 weeks, a ridiculous 64.05%. The only success Yates has had has come when he’s tried to force the ball to Hopkins, who might be the best contested ball receiver in the league. Even with Hopkins out there, the Texans have been outscored 105-29 over those 3 games, although their competition has been pretty tough (the Jimmy Garoppolo led 49ers, the Jaguars, and the Steelers).

The Colts are a major step down in competition. Outside of the Texans, the Bryce Petty led Jets, and the Browns, the Colts are the worst team in the league right now. Their 3 wins have come by a combined 12 points, while their 12 losses have come by a combined 162 points, giving them a point differential of -150, 2nd worst in the NFL, despite the fact that they actually have a positive turnover margin at +4. They enter this game dead last in first down rate differential at -6.70% and have a league high 5 losses in which they won the turnover margin.

They have also lost safety Malik Hooker, cornerback Rashaan Melvin, outside linebacker John Simon, defensive end Henry Anderson, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, and left guard Jack Mewhort in the last couple months, all of whom were key players, so this team is even worse than they were earlier in the year, a big part of the reason why they haven’t won a game in about 2 months. All 3 of their wins have come against terrible teams, the Browns, the Brian Hoyer led 49ers, and the Tom Savage led Texans and none of those wins would have covered this 6-point spread.

Their only win by more than a field goal was their 20-14 win in Houston back in week 9, but, just because the Colts won by 6 in Houston doesn’t mean they are necessarily going to win by more than 6 at home in Indianapolis in this game, even though the Texans are now starting Yates and are now without Hopkins. For one thing, the Colts are also more banged up than they were then, as Henry Anderson, Johnathan Hankins, and Rashaan Melvin played in that game and played well defensively for the Colts.

On top of that, teams tend to cover in same season revenge games, as road underdogs are 68-39 ATS since 2002 in regular season divisional revenge games against a team that previously defeated them earlier in the season as road underdogs, as the Colts were in Houston. I have no interest in actually betting on this game because both teams are terrible and both teams could have one foot in the off-season at the end of an awful season, but this line is too high, so the Texans are the pick for pick ‘em pool purposes.

Indianapolis Colts 17 Houston Texans 13

Pick against the spread: Houston +6

Confidence: Low

Pittsburgh Steelers at Houston Texans: 2017 Week 16 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3) at Houston Texans (4-10)

The Texans were blown out last week in Jacksonville, losing 45-7. The good news for them is teams tend to bounce back from blowout losses, going 54-31 ATS since 2002 after a loss by 35 or more. It’s counterintuitive, but it makes sense, as teams tend to be overlooked, underrated, and embarrassed after getting blown out. That blowout loss didn’t cause a big line shift, but that’s largely because their opponents, the Pittsburgh Steelers, lost arguably their best player Antonio Brown with a calf injury that is expected to keep him out for at least the final two weeks of the regular season. Already missing stud linebacker Ryan Shazier for the season, the Steelers are far from 100% right now. The Steelers are also expected to be without starting left guard Ramon Foster with a concussion, though they do get right tackle Marcus Gilbert back from a 4-game suspension.

In addition to their injury issues, the Steelers could also be flat this week after last week’s heartbreaking home loss to the New England Patriots. They’re typically flat in non-divisional road games against weak opponents anyway, as they are 4-15 ATS since Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie year in 2004 as non-divisional road favorites of 4.5 or more. Earlier this year, they lost in Chicago and almost lost in Indianapolis as big road favorites, and they only have 4 wins by more than 7 points all year, so the Texans could give them more of a game than people are expecting.

That being said, I would not recommend betting the Texans, for two reasons. For one, I don’t think we’re getting enough line value with the Texans. Given all of the players they have lost to injury this season, they are one of the worst teams in the league right now, with quarterback TJ Yates under center behind arguably the worst offensive line in football and a defense that has not been nearly the same since losing JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus for the season. Two, the Steelers don’t have a tough game next week, with the Browns coming to town, and superior teams do tend to take care of business when they don’t have any upcoming distractions, as favorites of 6+ are 72-43 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again. The Texans should be the right side, but only for pick ‘em purposes.

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Houston Texans 13

Pick against the spread: Houston +9

Confidence: Low

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (4-9) at Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4)

The Jaguars got arguably their biggest win of the season last week, holding on in a 30-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. However, they easily could have lost that game, as they lost the first down rate battle at -1.24% and needed to win the turnover margin by 2 to pull out a 6-point victory. Despite that, this line has moved from 8.5 last week on the early line to 10.5 this week, as the Jaguars seem to have legitimized themselves in the eyes of the public a little bit. Typically, I bet against line movements that seem unwarranted, but I actually think this line is still a little too low.

The Texans are one of the worst teams in the NFL without all of the players they are missing with injury, including quarterback Deshaun Watson, defensive end JJ Watt, and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus. They are down to 3rd string quarterback TJ Yates, behind arguably the worst offensive line in football, and, without Watt and Mercilus, this once stout defense is average at best. The Jaguars, meanwhile, are a top-10 team and have been for weeks, led by the top defense in the NFL, which is now fully healthy after stud linebacker Telvin Smith missed the last two games with a concussion.

The Texans are also in a terrible spot because they have to turn around and host the Steelers. It’s not that they won’t be focused for the Jaguars this week, but it’s very tough for teams to keep it close against superior teams when they have another tough game on deck. Teams are 33-55 ATS as underdogs of 7+ before being underdogs of 7+ since 2012, including 7-18 ATS before being home underdogs of 7+, which the Texans likely will be next week at home against the Steelers (+8 on the early line). The Jaguars, meanwhile, have only a trip to San Francisco on deck and should be able to take care of business against an inferior opponent. There’s not enough here for me to be confident in the Jaguars, but that would change if this line drops to 10.

Sunday Update: This line has moved to -10 in some places Sunday morning. Leonard Fournette is out for the Jaguars, but they are pretty deep at the running back position and have had success without him this season. Meanwhile, top receiver DeAndre Hopkins is not 100% for the Texans, after not practicing all week. He basically is this whole offense at this point in the season and an injury makes him that much easier for Jacksonville’s loaded secondary to deal with. Jacksonville is worth a small bet at -10.

Jacksonville Jaguars 24 Houston Texans 10

Pick against the spread: Jacksonville -10

Confidence: Low

San Francisco 49ers at Houston Texans: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (2-10) at Houston Texans (4-8)

Last week, the 49ers were 3 point underdogs in Chicago. I bet heavily on Chicago because I thought they were an underrated team, especially with middle linebacker Danny Trevathan back healthy, and that they were at least a few points better than the 49ers. However, the 49ers didn’t just cover. They also ended up pulling the upset victory on the road by final score of 15-14 and the game wasn’t even as close as the final score.

The 49ers had 5 scoring drives, but had to settle for field goals on all 5 occasions, while the Bears got just one scoring drive, but scored a touchdown on it and then got a punt return for their second touchdown. If they hadn’t returned that punt for a touchdown and if the 49ers had converted a couple of their long drives into touchdowns, it could have easily been a 10-15 point San Francisco win. The 49ers picked up 23 first downs to the Bears’ 8, as they dominated time of possession and won the first down rate battle by +6.51%.

I still think the Bears are an underrated team when healthy, but I think I clearly underestimated the 49ers. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo exceeded my expectations on the road against a tough defense in his first start with the 49ers, just a month after being acquired from the Patriots at the trade deadline. He doesn’t have the best supporting cast to work with, but he makes this offense much better and should only improve as he becomes more comfortable with the system and the players around him. It’s not just the addition of Garoppolo that’s made a big difference for this team though, as this team has been playing significantly better defense in recent weeks thanks to the return of stud rookie linebacker Reuben Foster from injury a few weeks back.

Despite that, the 49ers are still 3-point underdogs in Houston, the same line as they were in Chicago last week. This line has actually moved from 5.5 on the early line last week, but I still think we’re getting good line value with the 49ers, as I have this line calculated at even. The Texans are one of the worst teams in the league without quarterback Deshaun Watson, defensive end JJ Watt, and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who are all out for the season.

New quarterback Tom Savage is arguably the worst in the league and, making matters worse, he’s immobile and plays behind arguably the worst offensive line in football. They get #2 wide receiver Will Fuller back from injury this week, but he hasn’t been the same player without Watson. If the 49ers can defeat the Bears on the road, they should be able to do the same in Houston, or at least keep it within a field goal to at least get a push of this spread. The 49ers are a smart bet this week.

San Francisco 49ers 17 Houston Texans 16 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +3

Confidence: High

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (4-7) at Tennessee Titans (7-4)

Last week, the Texans were 7 point underdogs in Baltimore and I bet against them. The Texans managed a push, but didn’t get in the end zone on their final 11 drives, after scoring a touchdown on their first drive of the game, when the Ravens committed 3 dumb penalties for 39 yards to keep the drive moving. Tom Savage had yet another horrible game, only managing big plays when DeAndre Hopkins or Baltimore’s penalties bailed him out, and he will be the starter again this week because of the lack of a better option. In a season where many teams have questionable quarterback situations, Savage is arguably the worst starting quarterback who has seen extended action.

Despite that, the Texans are just 6.5 point underdogs here in Tennessee, a half point lower than they were last week in Baltimore. And considering about 9% of games are decided by exactly a touchdown, it’s a big half point. Tennessee is undoubtedly a better team than the Ravens, who have one of the worst offenses in the league. The Titans beat the Ravens earlier this year in a game they led by 10 until a garbage time touchdown cut the lead to a field goal with less than a minute left. I have this line calculated at -11.5, so we’re getting significant line value with the Titans at 6.5. Without Quarterback Deshaun Watson, left tackle Duane Brown, wide receiver Will Fuller, defensive end JJ Watt, and outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, the Texans are arguably the least talented team in the league, while the Titans are a borderline top-10 team and one of the healthiest teams in the whole league.

The Texans are in a great spot as road underdogs in their 2nd of two road games off of a road loss. Teams are 119-77 ATS in that spot since 2008. That’s because teams typically do better in their second of two road games, as opposed to a single road game sandwiched between two home games, but lines don’t really adjust for that. Teams are 256-269 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.78 points per game, as opposed to 377-521 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.96 points per game, a difference of about 2 points. That being said, we’re still getting enough line value with the Titans that this is my Pick of the Week. This line is at 7 still in some places, but I would wait for 6.5, even if you have to pay a little extra juice.

Tennessee Titans 24 Houston Texans 13

Pick against the spread: Tennessee -6.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Arizona Cardinals at Houston Texans: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (4-5) at Houston Texans (3-6)

Both of these teams have had their season derailed by injuries to their starting quarterback, as Carson Palmer and Deshaun Watson are out indefinitely with a broken arm and a torn ACL respectively. As a result, these two teams are starting Blaine Gabbert and Tom Savage respectively, two of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. Quarterback isn’t the only place these two teams are banged up though. The Cardinals have lost left tackle DJ Humphries, running back David Johnson, left guard Mike Iupati, outside linebacker Markus Golden, and safety Tyvon Branch for the season with injuries, while the Texans are missing defensive end JJ Watt, outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus, defensive end Christian Covington, and wide receiver Will Fuller.

With all that these two teams are missing, they are two of the worst teams in the entire NFL. I have them more or less even in my roster rankings, suggesting that the hometown Texans should be favored by about a field goal. Given that, we are getting line value with them as just 1 point home favorites, but it’s not enough for me to bet on Houston confidently. For pick ‘em purposes, the Texans should be the pick, but I would not recommend betting on either of these teams.

Houston Texans 20 Arizona Cardinals 17

Pick against the spread: Houston -1

Confidence: Low

Houston Texans at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (3-5) at Los Angeles Rams (6-2)

The Rams are 6-2, but I am not quite sold on them as a top-10 team. Four of their six wins have come against the 49ers, Cardinals, Giants, and Colts, who are among the 6 or 7 worst teams in the league. They have also beaten the Jaguars and the Cowboys, but the Cowboys were without Sean Lee and the Jaguars allowed two special teams touchdowns in a 10-point loss. The Rams have won big in the past two weeks, but that was against an Arizona team that lost Carson Palmer midgame and a Giants team that quit when they got down big.

The Rams’ two losses came against the Redskins and the Seahawks, both at home. In fact, they are just 1-2 at home this year, as opposed to 5-0 away from Los Angeles (including a neutral site game in London). Their one home win came against the Colts, who were led by Scott Tolzien, arguably the worst quarterback in the NFL. The Rams don’t have quite the same trouble getting home fans as the Chargers, but Los Angeles has not proven to be much of a homefield advantage for them since they’ve moved, as they are 2-7-1 ATS in Los Angeles over the past two seasons.

This week they are at home for the Texans, favored by 12 points in what could easily be a trap game for the Texans, who head to Minnesota next week to face a Vikings team that is also 6-2. Favorites of 10+ points are just 57-78 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs. The Texans, meanwhile, should be completely focused with only a home game against the lowly Cardinals on deck. If I trusted the Texans at all, I’d make a bet on them here, but they are arguably a bottom-3 team without JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Deshaun Watson. I have this line at -10.5, so we aren’t getting much line value with the Texans, who could easily lose by two touchdowns if the Rams are focused.

Los Angeles Rams 20 Houston Texans 10

Pick against the spread: Houston +12

Confidence: Low