I'm really interested to see the Texans this season. It's one of the clubs that could finish 6-10 or reach the Super Bowl and neither would totally shock me. By the way, the Super Bowl is in Houston this season, and no team has played in it while hosting.
The reason I give such a wide spectrum of possibilities for this team is that I have no idea what Brock Osweiler is. At times last season with Denver in place of Peyton Manning, he looked like a franchise quarterback. Other times, he looked a bit lost. In fact, Osweiler often would be great in the first half and then struggle in the second. So that means teams adjusted to him. Now can he adjust to those adjustments? We shall see. Physically, he looks the part. But mentally? There were also some questions about his leadership skills. You didn't exactly hear members of the Broncos crying that he left town. But Osweiler better stay healthy because only Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden are behind him.
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I loved the addition of running back Lamar Miller from Miami. DeAndre Hopkins blew up last year and is now one of the best receivers in football. First-round draft pick Will Fuller of Notre Dame is a burner who should help stretch the field opposite Hopkins. He's +2500 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. There's no explanation for the cyborg that is three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, the single most disruptive defensive force in the NFL. He's the +275 favorite to win a fourth. There's a lot of good here, but also plenty of questions (offensive line is another one of those).
Houston was 5-3 at home last season, 5-3 against the spread and 3-5 "over/under." The Texans appear to have one of the easier home schedules in the league in facing just two 2015 playoff teams there. I project a 6-2 home record. The Texans have a BetOnline wins total of 8.5 for the coming season, and I think they go 9-7 so go over at -140. Overall, Houston's schedule ranks as tied for the 19th-toughest in the league with an opponents' combined 2015 winning percentage of .484. Houston is +200 to repeat in the AFC South -- it's very possible if Osweiler is better than I think. Odds listed below for the home team.
Sept. 11 vs. Bears (-5.5, 44): I really think this game could set the tone for Houston's season and for what to expect from Osweiler as Chicago isn't very good defensively. Lose this one and 0-3 is possible for Houston. Win it, and I think 4-0 is. The Texans are 3-0 all time in series. Key trend: Texans 1-4-1 ATS all time at home vs. NFC North teams.
Sept. 18 vs. Chiefs (pick'em): First playoff team the Texans face this season. Kansas City should be 1-0 after hosting San Diego in Week 1. The Chiefs had Houston's number in 2015, winning 27-20 in Texas in Week 1 and then 30-0 there in the wild-card round. Brian Hoyer was so bad that day, it's really what pushed the Texans to overpay for Osweiler. They had to find a quarterback but weren't ready to roll with a rookie draft pick with a team ready to contend. Key trend: Texans 1-5 ATS all time at home vs. Chiefs (including playoffs).
Oct. 2 vs. Titans (-7): Houston is off a trip to New England on Thursday in Week 3, so this could be a trap game with a Texans victory, even though Tom Brady won't be playing for the Pats. It's still big to win in New England. Tennessee is home to Oakland the previous Sunday. The Texans beat the visiting Titans 20-6 in Week 8 last year. Hoyer threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns and Houston tied a franchise record with seven sacks. Watt tied a career high with nine quarterback hits and added 2.5 sacks. Key trend: Texans 5-4 ATS in series as a home favorite.
Oct. 16 vs. Colts (-1.5): Sunday night game. Houston off a tough trip to Minnesota in Week 5. Indianapolis is home to Chicago the previous Sunday. The Colts weren't a playoff team last year but should be of that caliber in 2016 with Andrew Luck healthy. Houston has lost three straight at home in the series. Last year it was 27-20 on a Thursday in Week 5. Luck missed that one. Ryan Mallett started at QB for Houston but was hurt midway through the second quarter and replaced by Hoyer. He threw for 312 yards and two scores, both to Jaelen Strong. Hopkins had 11 receptions for 169 yards. Key trend: Texans have been a home favorite three times overall in series and are 2-1 ATS.
Oct. 30 vs. Lions (-4): This will likely be a letdown game for the Texans. Short week for Houston as it goes to Denver on Monday night in Week 7. No way Osweiler isn't totally jacked up for that one. The whole team will be, I'm sure. This is also ahead of Houston's bye. I love Detroit already in this one. Detroit is home to Washington the previous Sunday. Texans won only previous home meeting with Lions in 2008. Key trend: Texans 7-3 ATS in past 10 before a bye (any location).
Nov. 27 vs. Chargers (-4.5): Another short week for Houston as it's in Oakland on Monday in Week 11. San Diego is off its bye week. The Texans had lost the first four meetings with the Chargers but ended that skid with a 31-28 win in California in Week 1 of the 2013 season. Key trend: Texans 3-7 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC West teams.
Dec. 18 vs. Jaguars (-4.5): Houston off a trip to Indy in Week 14. Jacksonville is off a trip to Kansas City. The Texans beat the visiting Jaguars 30-6 in Week 17 last year to clinch the AFC South title. Watt and Whitney Mercilus combined for 6.5 sacks. Both also forced a fumble and recovered another. Alfred Blue rushed for 102 yards. Hoyer threw for 249, a TD and a pick. Key trend: Texans 6-4 ATS in past 10 as home favorite in series.
Dec. 24 vs. Bengals (+1): Saturday night game. This is the other playoff team on Houston's home slate. Cincinnati is off a Sunday night home game vs. Pittsburgh. Houston pulled a big surprise at unbeaten Cincinnati on a Monday in Week 10 last year, 10-6, easily the most boring MNF game of the season. T.J. Yates took over for an injured Hoyer in the third quarter and threw the game-winning 22-yard TD pass to Hopkins early in the fourth quarter. Each team had just 256 yards of offense. Key trend: Texans 3-7 ATS in past 10 as home dog vs. any team.
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