Houston Texans Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Betting Futures
by Alan Matthews - 6/24/2014
If you predicted the Houston Texans were going to have the worst record in the NFL last season, then you should be writing these stories and not me. I didn't peg the Texans as a Super Bowl champion last season, but I certainly thought they had a great chance of returning to the playoffs for a third straight year. Things started off well enough at 2-0, but if you looked closely the Texans were very fortunate to win those two, and it perhaps portended bad things to come.
Then the wheels fell off as a 30-9 loss in Baltimore in Week 3 started a season-ending 14-game losing streak. Matt Schaub went from a Top 15 quarterback in the NFL to a guy with no confidence after he threw an interception returned for a touchdown in four straight games (started in the Week 2 win). He was about to lose his job when Schaub got hurt in a Week 6 home blowout loss to St. Louis, which led to the Case Keenum era for the next eight games. Predictably, that didn't go well for the undrafted free agent, who starred locally at the University of Houston.
The team fired head coach Gary Kubiak 11 games into that 14-game skid, with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips taking over the final three. At least the skid got the club the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft. Houston hit a home run, many believe, in hiring Bill O'Brien as the team's new head coach. Other teams had tried to get him out of Penn State before. He led Nittany Lions to a 15-9 record, which is phenomenal considering the turmoil the program was in following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. O'Brien is considered a quarterbacks guy, as was Kubiak, and had success as New England's former offensive coordinator.
I would argue no team is in worse shape quarterback-wise than Houston, which is a shame considering there's enough offensive talent to be an AFC contender otherwise. Schaub was traded to Oakland for a late-round pick in May's draft. You can't fault the Texans for taking South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, but it's baffling they waited until the fourth round to grab a QB: Pitt's Tom Savage. Theoretically, Savage was going to be in an open competition for the starting job with new addition Ryan Fitzpatrick, Keenum and T.J. Yates, who played briefly last year and started five games for Houston in 2011 (and beat the Bengals in a divisional-round matchup). Apparently O'Brien wanted to make things clear right away, however, as he named Fitzpatrick his starter late last week, which was expected considering his experience. This will be his 10th season in the NFL; Tennessee was 3-6 in his starts last year. The guy is serviceable but should be a No. 2. Keenum will hold that role, presumably, because Yates was traded after the Fitzpatrick news.
The greatest player in Texans history, receiver Andre Johnson, is not happy with the team or his quarterback options and reportedly would like to be traded. He has not attended a single offseason workout, minicamp or OTA, and he could boycott training camp as well. Highly unlikely the team trades him. The 32-year-old is Houston's longest-tenured player after joining the franchise in its second season. He is still excellent, catching 109 passes for 1,407 yards and five scores last year. Fellow WR DeAndre Hopkins had a fine rookie season, grabbing 52 balls for 802 yards and two scores. That's a fine 1-2 punch, and Garrett Graham is an underrated tight end. Arian Foster is one of the best running backs in the NFL when healthy, but he wasn't last year. He needs to be now because his very good former backup, Ben Tate, is gone.
New coordinator Romeo Crennel will keep Houston in the 3-4 scheme that it played very well in the past two seasons under Phillips. The Texans were No. 7 in yards allowed last year, which is more representative of how good the defense was than the No. 24 ranking in points allowed. Remember, Schaub alone was responsible for 28 points against in that four-week span. Clowney recently underwent sports hernia surgery, but the team says he should be ready for camp. Still, that's not a good thing. For one, Clowney appeared injury-prone last season with South Carolina. Second, he is moving from defensive end to outside linebacker, and any time missed could slow his adjustment period (Clowney will put his hand on the ground in some passing situations). He will line up on the right side, meaning offenses have to pick their poison in doubling him or left defensive end J.J. Watt. The team could miss nose tackle Earl Mitchell, who signed with Miami, but Houston replaced him with Kansas City's mountainous Jerrell Powe. Safety Kendrick Lewis also arrived from K.C., and they both know what Crennel will want from his Chiefs days.
2014 Houston Texans Schedule Analysis
The Texans have the third-easiest schedule in the NFL as their opponents went a combined 113-143 last season, a winning percentage of .441. Houston's home slate (.469) is a bit tougher than on the road (.414). All four AFC South teams have the four easiest schedules. Houston is a 2.5-point home favorite for Week 1 against Washington in a game featuring teams that have combined for 22 straight losses.
Yes, three of Houston's first five games are on the road, but not a single one of those five are against a playoff team from last year. It's not out of the question the team could be 4-1 after that stretch. Trips to Oakland and the Giants follow the opener, then Buffalo visits Houston before the Texans go to Dallas. Things toughen up after that. Week 6 is a short-week game against Indianapolis followed by trips to Pittsburgh and Tennessee. Philadelphia visits Houston in Week 9 before the Texans' bye. After the bye, just two games against playoff clubs: Week 12 vs. Cincinnati and Week 15 at Indianapolis. Two games against lousy Jacksonville, including the regular-season finale, although the Jags did sweep the series last year. This is a very, very friendly schedule. Just one road game against a playoff foe (Colts).
2014 Houston Texans Odds to Win the Super Bowl and Futures Betting Lines
Odds courtesy of Sportsbook.ag . The Texans are +6500 to win the Super Bowl, +2500 to win the AFC title and +280 to win the AFC South. Houston's wins total is 7.5 (the highest jump in projected wins for any team from last season), with the "over" a -160 favorite. Foster is +15000 to win NFL MVP and +1400 to lead the league in rushing. Fitzpatrick is +10000 to lead the NFL in passing yards. Johnson is +2500 to top the receiving yardage category. Hopkins is +15000. Clowney is the +200 favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
2014-15 Houston Texans Picks and Predictions
If only this team had Schaub! I think it could win the AFC South with simply solid quarterback play. I might still throw a few bucks down on that prop as maybe Fitzpatrick can be good for a full season like he was for half of one in 2011 with Buffalo. Plus, if Andrew Luck gets hurt, Houston is well ahead of Tennessee and Jacksonville. I do think Foster will contend for the rushing title if he can play all 16 games, but I don't believe that's likely. I don't like Clowney for DROY because No. 1 overall defensive picks simply never win it. That hernia is also concerning, plus the new position. Take the "over" 7.5 wins. At least 8-8 is doable against that schedule.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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