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

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Houston Texans (3-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-3)

The Jaguars got off to a great start to the season, building on an AFC Championship appearance last year with a 2-0 start, including an impressive win over the Patriots, who eliminated them in the post-season last year. However, since that win the Jaguars have sputtered, losing 3 of 4 games, including their last 2 by a combined 49 points. Losing on the road in Kansas City wasn’t exactly a surprise, but the Jaguars were then dominated by a middle of the road Cowboys team last week.

Many point to the absence of running back Leonard Fournette, who has had just 20 carries in 2 games this season, while dealing with lingering hamstring injuries, but the Jaguars’ offense didn’t miss much of a beat without Fournette went he was hurt last season and the running game hasn’t really been the problem for the Jaguars this season, as backup running back TJ Yeldon has averaged 4.46 yards per carry on 67 carries. The Jaguars were also without Fournette in their game against New England, although that Patriots team was less than 100% with several key absences.

The bigger issue has been the declining play of quarterback Blake Bortles, who remains a highly inconsistent starting quarterback. Bortles has a 99.8 QB rating in the Jaguars 3 wins, but a 63.2 QB rating in their 3 losses and has struggled mightily in recent weeks after a hot start. The “real” Blake Bortles is probably somewhere right in the middle of what he’s been in their wins and what he’s been in their losses this season, but he’s a very frustrating quarterback to predict on a week-to-week basis. Assuming an average Bortles performance this week, I have this line calculated at Jacksonville -4, which is right about where this line is anyway, so I have no desire to bet either side in this one. For pick ‘em purposes, I would take the Texans, who have played a lot of close games this year (all 6 decided by 7 points or fewer), but this is one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Houston Texans 16

Pick against the spread: Houston +4.5

Confidence: None

Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans: 2018 Week 6 NFL Pick

Buffalo Bills (2-3) at Houston Texans (2-3)

The Bills have the worst offense in the league, but they’ve managed to pull off a couple wins in the past few weeks. That’s partially because their defense has been improved since the first couple weeks of the season, but they also didn’t win the first down rate battle in either of their wins and rank dead last on the season in first down rate differential at -11.10%, so it’s hard to get too excited about their defense.

Both wins also came against teams that were in terrible spots. The Vikings were coming off of a tie with the Packers and had another game against the Rams in 4 days on Thursday Night Football, while the Titans were coming off of an overtime upset win over the Eagles and had another tough game against the Ravens on deck. Despite the two wins, the Bills are still a tough team to bet.

Fortunately, they are facing another opponent in a bad spot this week, as the Texans have a big divisional clash in Jacksonville following this relatively easy home game against the Bills. Big favorites understandably tend to disappoint with a much bigger game on deck, going 37-55 ATS as favorites of 10+ before being underdogs of 3+ since 2002. I also have this line calculated at Houston -8, so we’re getting a little bit of line value with the visitors too. There’s not enough here for me to put money on the Bills, but this is the most I’ve liked the Bills in a game all year and they could easily give the Texans a game if the Texans don’t come out with their best effort.

Houston Texans 20 Buffalo Bills 13

Pick against the spread: Buffalo +10

Confidence: Low

Dallas Cowboys at Houston Texans: 2018 Week 5 NFL Pick

Dallas Cowboys (2-2) at Houston Texans (1-3)

The Texans picked up their first win of the season last win in Indianapolis, but they’ve still gotten off to a disappointing start to their season. Expected to be Super Bowl contenders, the Texans are just 1-3 with their only win coming in overtime against a team that’s 1-4. The Texans have been better than their record and Deshaun Watson has continued to play at a high level in his 2nd season in the league, but the Texans have struggled to pass protect and to run the ball and their defense has been underwhelming.

This line suggests the Texans are a little bit better than the Cowboys, but I think that’s backwards. The Cowboys probably aren’t going to make the playoffs in the loaded NFC, but they’re not a bad team either. They’re without Sean Lee with injury, but young linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith have played well in his absence and they get their top interior pass rusher David Irving back from suspension this week.

The Cowboys have also been a good road team in recent years, going 36-30 on the road since 2010 (+0.09 points per game), while going just 34-34 at home (+1.19 points per game). The Cowboys have a national fanbase that typically fills road stadiums pretty well and I would expect a lot of Cowboys fans at this game in Houston. I would only give the Texans about a 1-1.5 points for homefield advantage this week rather than the typical 3, so I have this line calculated at even. The Cowboys are worth a play at +3.5 and have a good chance to win straight up.

Dallas Cowboys 24 Houston Texans 23 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: Dallas +3.5

Confidence: Medium