Week 8: Miami Dolphins @ Houston Texans

Miami Dolphins @ Houston Texans (-7.5, 44.5)

Line: The spread and the total feel too high. Even with Osweiler, I don’t think this current Texans team should lay 7.5 points in this spot. Not sold on either side here, but if I had to bet, I would take Texans in a teaser and Dolphins on the spread from a value perspective. We played the under on 45.5 because the total was set too high for this game. I don’t know where 45 points should come from.

Situation: –

Analysis: Let’s break this one down to the simplest form of handicapping. The Dolphins have Brock Osweiler at quarterback which decreases their scoring expectation per se. They scored 28 points in regulation against a Bears defense that couldn’t prepare for Osweiler and publicly admitted that they were gassed by the heat (100°F) and the sun. Chicago gave up two long touchdowns off short passes by not tackling the ball carrier. If that game was played on a neutral field, Chicago probably holds the Dolphins to around 14 points. Against a below average Lions defense, Miami scored 22 points at home last week – another game with a good home-field advantage. Since Adam Gase took over as the head coach of the Dolphins in 2016, this team has been averaging 16.4 PPG in road games. This includes a variety of QBs like Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Jay Cutler, and David Fales.

The Texans defense has been below average in pass efficiency, but after the two most recent games, they have climbed to #14 in pass DVOA. Their big strength is their pass rush which gets to the quarterback. This is a great matchup against a putrid Dolphins offensive line. I don’t know how RT Ja’Wuan James is going to block JJ Watt, or how that interior line is going to block Jadeveon Clowney, who moved around and rushed through A- and B-gaps against the Jaguars. Like I mentioned, the Texans secondary can be exploited through the air, but we are talking about Brock Osweiler who is going to miss WRs Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson who have a combined 64 targets this year. Wilson is great on screen and short passes which can negative arriving pressure whereas Kenny Stills is an underrated deep threat.

Considering the Texans is strong against the run (#1 in rush DVOA), Osweiler will be forced to move the ball through the air while relying on Danny Amendola, DeVante Parker, Kenyan Drake, and Kenny Stills. It also doesn’t help that Osweiler will play against his old DC who might know his tendencies. However, after Dean Pees wasn’t able to blitz Flacco I don’t know how much impact those kinds of things have. Overall, I think the Fins have a tough matchup in this one and I don’t really see how they will touch 17 points in this one.

The Houston Texans have won four straight, but their issues are still obvious: the offensive line is the worst in the league and Deshaun Watson had to travel to Jacksonville by bus because the air pressure on the airplane could have been too much for his bruised lunge. The Dolphins defense didn’t look good the last two weeks, but they faced decent offenses with much better offensive lines – against the Texans, they will have a better matchup. Rookie WR Keke Coutee joined the team in week four and is already the third-most targeted receiver on the season with 7.5 targets per game. He would be a good counter attack against Miami’s rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick who has been excellent at defending the slot where he plays the majority of his snaps. Tyler Boyd (4-44-0), Anthony Miller (1-29-1) and Golden Tate (4-36-0) are slot receivers who got shut down by the Fins over the past three games. It’s going to be difficult for the Texans to find matchups in the slot.

The biggest strength of the Dolphins is the secondary – they have decent coverage across the field. The way to beat them is with a good offensive line because their lack of pass rush will let guys run open at some point. The Texans don’t have the offensive line to get enough time and their tight ends should get shut down by the Fins. Watson’s only chance to move the ball is going to be on the perimeter with passes to DeAndre Hopkins who will be covered by young stud Xavien Howard and Will Fuller who has a good matchup against Bobby McCain. I doubt this will be enough to put up a ton of points.

I see both offenses going to struggle to move the ball for various reasons and I can see both quarterbacks throwing one or two interceptions that will kill drives. The Texans should have more firepower at home but I don’t see a blowout. A score like 23-14 or 20-16 seems likely to me – definitely below the posted total.

The Pick: Dolphins / Texans Under 45.5 -110 (Bookmaker, 10/22 04.00 PM EST)

Week 4: Houston Texans @ Indianapolis Colts

Line: I really had hoped for an overreaction to the Texans going 0-3 – I thought the books could open this line at Colts -3. They opened this Colts -1.5, early Indy money poured in to push it to -2.5 before Texans bettors came in on a bigger buyback down to +1 and now to pk on Saturday. It seems like the sharp money is seeing what I am seeing: an underperforming Texans team against an overperforming Colts squad. I’ve got the Texans slightly favored, by 0.5 points. Texans could be favorited by Sunday after the Colts injury reports.

Situation: Texans play their third road game in four weeks and Bill O’Brien should be on the hot seat.

Matchup: Andrew Luck cannot throw the ball deep, he just cannot. Not only did the Colts sub in Jacoby Brissett for the hail mary, but Luck also had three of his five worst “yards per completions” games this year. His zip is gone, he doesn’t possess the arm strength to hit comeback and out routes to the far side – he is far away from being 100%. His shoulder is still a big issue. To this point, he wasn’t forced into any shootouts where his arm strength could be exposed. He is also bad under pressure, plays on which you need to get the ball out quickly with power – he doesn’t have it right now.

The Texans pass rush is slightly coming alive, JJ Watt registered the first sacks since 2016. The Colts offensive line ranks bottom-five in pressure rate to begin the season and I believe Watt, Mercilus, Reader and Clowney will get the best of them. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo is still out as well as right tackle Joe Haeg. Haeg has been a liability to this point, but I don’t think Denzelle Good will do any better against Watt. The Colts will also be without starting tight end Jack Doyle. Eric Ebron can’t be trusted.

The Colts have been playing very conservatively, “bend but don’t break” on defense and small steps on offense which kept them in the games. But their defense – which I’m not sold on – has only been tested in the Bengals game when Dalton went downfield a couple of times. This will be different this week: Deshaun Watson is the most aggressive downfield passer, by nature, but also by numbers this season. He leads the league in air yards, even ahead of Fitzpatrick, Big Ben, and Patrick Mahomes. This week the Colts secondary who are without starting safety Clayton Geathers, will finally get tested  by DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and rookie speedster Keke Coutee. I can see a breakout game for the Texans offense. I give the edge to Houston.

Bill O’Brien is plain stupid and he shouldn’t be the head coach anymore, but he is coaching for his job and we gotta believe that he is finally going to take limitations off Watson by designing more zone reads and play-action. He publicly talked about how bad his offensive line plays – which is true – and the only way to fix it is to mask it by play design. This is O’Brien’s game of the year, at 0-4 I could see him getting fired.

I expect the Texans to score which will force Luck to air it out where I don’t see them succeeding. The Texans are on a 0-8 run in close games which got to regress at some point, the coach is fighting for his job, the pass rush is getting stronger and their offense should really be successful against this Colts-secondary – Houston is going to take this one home.

The pick: Houston Texans ML +103 (Pinnacle, 09/28 03.10 PM EST)

Chiefs at Texans week 1 – pick & analysis

Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans Under 41 -107

This is a game I would play the under every time again no matter whether I hit it the first time or not. This game is set up to go under 40 points and I’ve got several reasons to explain:

Both teams have excellent defenses and furthermore are very good at defending third downs and red zone attempts

The Texans’ offensive line has been above average in a weak pass-rushing division. They had a very soft schedule. Brian Hoyer had a good pass protection last season and wasn’t really effective. This matchup against the Chiefs is completely different- he will see major pressure and will throw into good coverage. The Chiefs will force a few sacks and three and outs.

The Chiefs have a terrible and reshuffled offensive line. This is a nightmare matchup for the Chiefs. Jadeveon Clowney will line up on Sunday and get at least a limited snap count. From what I’ve heard, the Texans offensive linemen weren’t able to block Clowney and Watt at training – so why should the Chiefs be able to do that? Eric Fisher is listed as RT on the depth chart, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif next  to him at RG. Eric Fisher has been a bust in the NFL so far. In his first year he played RT, giving up 47 total pressures and 6 penalties. Last year he played LT and gave up 42 pressures along with 9 penalties. This time RT again and has a 6th round pick from 2014 next to him who has seen ZERO NFL snaps thus far and who looked horrible in the pre-season. These two guys will try to block JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus – have fun my friends! On the other side it’s Donald Stephenson who played 31 snaps last season and rookie Ben Grubbs blocking against Jared Crick and a healthy Jadeveon Clowney flying from the edge. Have fun my friends! And in the middle it’s rookie Mitch Morse against Vince Wilfork.

Both teams should show us a conservative gameplan, because both offensive lines will get dominated by the opposite front seven and both QBs are going to throw into good coverage. That means we are likely going to see a lot of running plays which eats the time. But I also expect both teams to not be highly successful on the ground, because Alfred Blue isn’t good and both teams have an improved run defense. The Chiefs have a TNF game against the Broncos on deck, so they won’t show their two aces and rather try to sneak out a stinker instead of trying to rape the playbook. The Texans are just limited on offense and will rather try to not turn the ball over instead of seeking for throws downfield. Many running plays, time ticking, many three and outs and more FGs than TDs on successful drives – I can hardly see any team scoring 20+ here on Sunday.