Monday Night Football Predictions: Houston Texans at Denver Broncos Odds & Picks
by Alan Matthews - 10/20/2016
I'm not going to delve into the NFL's sagging TV ratings this season again other than to say the Monday Night Football games have largely been blowouts between one decent team and one bad one. Last week's 28-3 Cardinals win over the Jets -- I recommended Arizona -7 and going under the total, so that worked out well -- is a prime example.
Finally, we get an interesting matchup this Monday. It's defending AFC South champion and current leader Houston (4-2) against reigning AFC West champion and current co-leader Denver (4-2). It's an important game for each to potentially earn the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs. I'm already conceding the top seed to New England. I would have favored the No. 2 for Pittsburgh before Ben Roethlisberger was ruled out 4-6 weeks with his knee injury. Now that's up for grabs for the potential AFC South and West champions. I'm still not sure either the Texans or Broncos repeat in their divisions, but that's another story.
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In reality, however, Monday's game is all about one guy: Brock Osweiler, the most hated NFL player in Denver these days. Of course, he was fully expected to be Peyton Manning's successor in the Mile High City but opted to take more money in Houston in free agency this offseason. There has been a lot of talk behind the scenes that Osweiler left because he was still pouting over being benched in the second half of the Broncos' Week 17 game last season for Manning.
Broncos GM John Elway seemed to indicate that Osweiler didn't want to be there when he delivered this not-so-subtle quote after Osweiler signed with the Texans: "We've stayed true to our philosophy of building a team with players who want to be Denver Broncos and want to be here.''
Texans at Broncos Betting Story Lines
Most NFL players don't begrudge their former teammates for leaving for more money. Hey, it's a business and playing careers are on average very short in the NFL. But here's more proof I think that Osweiler's teammates in Denver didn't like what he did: "We know Brock. He came from here. And we want to kill him. That's just what we want to do," linebacker Brandon Marshall said, while adding there's no ill will. Yeah right. Did you hear Colts guys saying that about Manning when he left for Denver? No.
Did the Texans make the right call in giving him a $75 million deal with $37 million guaranteed and was Denver smart not to match? Thus far I'd say maybe on both ends. Last week, we saw the good and bad Osweiler. Houston did very little offensively for three-and-a-half quarters against the visiting Colts and was in jeopardy of its first home loss. But Osweiler threw a 10-yard TD pass to Lamar Miller with 2:37 to go and then a 26-yard TD pass to C.J. Fiedorowicz for a stunning 23-23 tie at the end of regulation. The Texans would win it 26-23 in OT after an Osweiler 36-yard pass to Jaelen Strong got them into easy field-goal range.
Osweiler's season rating is just 74.1, which is ahead of only benched Blaine Gabbert (49ers) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (Jets). His eight picks are the second-most behind Fitz. Houston has been blown out in two road games and Osweiler was terrible in both -- to be fair, in New England and Minnesota -- maybe the NFL's two best teams.
The Texans will get a key piece back this week in rookie receiver Will Fuller. He was active against the Colts did not play because of a hamstring injury. However, starting cornerback Kevin Johnson, the team's 2015 first-round pick, broke his foot against Indy and is likely done for the year.
As for Elway, he looked fairly smart the first few weeks when 2015 seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian played pretty well in Osweiler's place. But there's a reason Siemian was a seventh-round pick, and that showed last Thursday in a 20-13 loss in San Diego. Siemian threw by far a career-high 50 passes and completed 30 of them but for just 230 yards. That 4.6 yards per attempt, which would be easily worst in the NFL. Other than a four-touchdown game vs. Cincinnati, Siemian hasn't looked like the future under center. That will be first-round pick Paxton Lynch, who started the Week 5 loss to Atlanta when Siemian was out with a shoulder injury. Perhaps Siemian's numbers improve this week with the return of head coach and offensive play-caller Gary Kubiak. He missed the Chargers game for health reasons.
Another reason the Denver offense has struggled in back-to-back games is lack of a running game. C.J. Anderson has done little since Week 2, actually. Kubiak plans to get rookie tailback Devontae Booker to be more involved. On seven touches vs. the Bolts, five carries and two receptions, he had two of the three longest plays of the game for the Broncos.
Broncos offensive tackle Russell Okung suffered a concussion vs. San Diego and No. 2 receiver Emmanuel Sanders a hip injury; Sanders should play this week.
Texans at Broncos Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Denver is -9 (+110) with a total of 40.5. On the moneyline, the Broncos are -325 and the Texans +265. On the alternate lines, the Broncos are -8.5 (+105), -8 (+100), -7.5 (-105), -7 (-125) and -6.5 (-145). Houston is 3-2-1 against the spread (0-2 on road) and 3-3 "over/under" (1-1 on road). Denver is 4-2 ATS (2-1 at home) and 3-3 O/U (2-1 at home).
The Texans are 4-1-1 ATS in their past six after an ATS loss. They are 1-7 ATS in their past eight on Monday. The Broncos are 5-2-1 ATS in their past eight vs. teams with a winning record. They have covered just one of their past eight on Monday. The under is 5-1 in Houston's past six after a win. The under is 5-0 in Denver's past five vs. teams with a winning record.
Texans at Broncos Betting Prediction
Those Denver defenders better be careful on Monday because I'm sure the NFL has let the officials know to be on watch for any funny business on Osweiler. From what I've seen of him on the road, I doubt the Texans can win. But perhaps playing in familiar surroundings will help some. So I'll take the points here. Go over that total only because it's so low. I can see something like 24-17 Broncos.
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