NFL Predictions: Packers at Texans Betting Odds and Picks
by Trevor Whenham - 10/10/2012
When the NFL schedule for the season was released earlier in the year, this game stood out as one of the best on tap. Last year the Packers were the class of the NFL — at least until the playoffs started. The Texans were also very good and were clearly only going to get better. In the eyes of many it was going to be a Super Bowl preview.
While that is still obviously possible, only one team has held up its end of the bargain so far. The Texans are one of two undefeated teams, and have looked very solid on defense and all but unstoppable offensively. Green Bay, though, has been another story entirely. The Packers second half collapse last week dropped them to just 2-3 on the season. They were robbed of a win in Seattle, but they still got themselves in the position to lose that one in the first place, so they have clear issues.
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This still should be a pretty good game, and it has a chance to be great. However, it’s not the instant classic it promised to be.
One clear sign of how things have changed is the difference in opening lines. When the game was first released this summer the initial early line had the Packers favored by 1.5 points. That doesn’t seem like a very big number, but considering it is a road game against a very good squad it was impressive for the Packers. When the line was posted this week, though, it had the Texans favored by 5.5 points. That’s a swing of a full touchdown — a whole lot when you are talking about the NFL. The line has fallen this week, but it’s still a striking illustration of how far the Packers have fallen below expectations to date.
Packers at Texans Betting Storylines
When you are looking at the Packers you can’t help but dwell on the second half of their most recent game. They were up 21-3 at the half against a rookie quarterback and an absence of real talent in too many positions in Indianapolis. It’s the kind of game that the Packers would have won by 40 last year. This year, though, they took most of the second half off, looked confused and overwhelmed, and wound up losing, 30-27. Some of the credit has to go to the Colts, who were able to channel the emotion surrounding the illness of their head coach and make it a powerful rallying point. That shouldn’t matter, though — not if the Packers were in good form. It was an ugly collapse, and it made it harder than ever for even the most vocal Green Bay apologist to pretend that nothing is really wrong.
There are problems on both sides of the ball for the Packers. The defense isn’t what it should be, but then it wasn’t for long stretches of time last year, either. What’s more striking by far is how badly the offense has struggled. Last year they averaged 35 points a game — a total that only four teams have ever exceeded. This year they are at 22.4. Last year they scored fewer than 25 points in a game just twice. This year they have already been held below that level three times. An offense that was immortal last year looks pretty ordinary now, and a QB who couldn’t make a mistake last year has looked like just another guy.
The problems aren’t necessarily permanent, and the team isn’t doomed. Until we can be confident that some of that spark from last year has returned, though, it’s hard to have a lot of faith in this team right now. Their problems have been shocking, but they haven’t been undeserved.
Houston suffered a major setback when Brian Cushing was lost for the year on Monday with an ACL injury. J.J. Watt is getting more of the attention from the media — owing largely to his massive sack total — but Cushing again leads the team in tackles and is the quiet heart-and-soul of the defense who allows Watt to dominate like he does. This is not the same Houston defense we have seen for too long, so they have the coaching, depth and confidence to handle this setback. If they let it get in their heads, though, it could be a problem. Sometimes the mental impact of a loss is far bigger than the impact on the field, and this situation is a prime candidate for that.
Packers at Texans NFL Odds and Betting Trends
The line opened this week as high as 5.5 points, but bettors clearly weren’t happy with Houston’s inability to cover against an outmatched Jets team because the line quickly dropped to 3.5. It can even now be found at the key number of three in some spots, which is essentially just the home field advantage. Given that movement it’s not a surprise that more of the bets have been on the Packers, but it is only a slight majority. The total opened at 47 or 48 depending on the spot, and has split the difference at 47.5 to date.
The teams have only met twice in their history, with Houston covering as underdogs both times, and winning outright last time. That was back in 2008, though, so a lot has changed since. The Packers are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 against teams with a winning record, but just 1-5 ATS in their last six games overall and 0-4 ATS in their last four on the road. Houston is 3-0-1 ATS in their last four games overall, and an impressive 12-3-2 ATS in their last 17.
NFL Predictions: Packers at Texans Betting Picks
I wish that the Texans had closed out stronger against the Jets. That would have made me more comfortable here. Still, I don’t have faith in the Packers on either side of the ball right now, and Houston is a very tough team to defend. The Jets were able to contain Andre Johnson almost completely, for example, but the Texans just turned around and torched them on the ground. Green Bay isn’t versatile enough to handle that at this point, and can’t afford to get into a shootout because they probably can’t keep up.
If the spread were bigger I’d have to think harder, but since you can give up just a field goal on the home team I think that this one is a no-brainer. I’ll take the Texans.
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