NFL Betting Predictions: Week 10 Opening Line Report and Picks
OK, I've had the weekend to process the Deshaun Watson injury. It's nothing short of a catastrophic loss for Houston - sadly less than 24 hours after the Astros won their first-ever World Series title and less than 24 before the city's parade on Friday - similar to that suffered by the Packers when Aaron Rodgers went down. Yes, I compared Watson to Rodgers as the rookie had been that good.
The former Clemson star had set an NFL rookie record with 19 touchdown passes in his first seven games, shattering the previous mark of 15. Watson was on pace for 43 TDs, which would have shattered the rookie record of 26. Watson's TD total was already more than all Houston QBs totaled last year when the team averaged just 17.4 points. Entering Week 9, the Texans led the NFL at 30.7 ppg. They were held to 14 in a six-point home loss to a bad Colts team on Sunday as backup QB Tom Savage was predictably mediocre.
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Honestly, I'm not going to go into what this means for Houston because I believe the team is irrelevant the rest of the way, especially after losing defensive stars J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus earlier this year to season-ending injuries. Here are the winners from this injury:
*-Jacksonville and Tennessee: No Watson and no Andrew Luck means either the Jaguars or Titans are winning the AFC South unless both of their starting quarterbacks go down (although I'm not sure it would hurt the Jags much if Blake Bortles got injured). The AFC South has been in existence since 2002. The Colts and Texans have combined to win it 13 times, with Tennessee the other two.
*-Teams remaining on Houston's schedule, which is (team already had its bye): at Rams, vs. Cardinals, at Ravens, at Titans, vs. 49ers, at Jaguars, vs. Steelers, at Colts. With Watson, the Texans could win any of those. Without? Maybe Arizona, San Francisco and Indy. It's a boost to the Rams' chances in the NFC West/wild card, the Ravens' shot at a wild card and Steelers' chances of the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
*-Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette: Watson already had been a massive betting favorite for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year; now either the Chiefs' Hunt or Jaguars' Fournette will win it. Hunt will be the clear leader now since Fournette has missed the past two games (one for injury one for suspension).
*-Cleveland Browns: Some actual good news for the Factory of Sadness!? In a way, yes, because the Browns own Houston's first- and second-round picks in 2018 - the first-rounder due to the trade that allowed Houston to move up to take Watson at No. 12 this year. With Watson, the Texans probably win, what, somewhere between 8-10 games? That's a mid-round draft pick. Without, somewhere between 6-7? So those two picks could be a handful of spots better.
Frankly, all football fans are losers with another star quarterback going down for the year. Watson was that fun to watch. The good news is that he should be 100 percent by the start of next season and it wasn't the same knee in which he tore his ACL as a freshman at Clemson. He rebounded quite nicely from that to lead the Tigers to back-to-back national title games, winning one.
Here are some Week 10 early lines that caught my eye. I won't touch on Thursday's game (Seahawks-Cardinals), my in-depth Sunday matchup (likely Giants-49ers - yes, really) or the Monday night game (Dolphins-Panthers) as I will be previewing them here individually.
Texans at Rams (-11.5, 47): It's a total bummer anyways that Watson is hurt, but I was really looking forward to this intriguing matchup against second-year Rams QB Jared Goff. Houston and L.A. were inept offensively last year but have proven in just 12 months how much can change when a franchise hits on a quarterback in the draft and/or lands the right head coach. If there was a redo of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Browns take Watson first. Would the Rams still take Goff at the top of the 2016 draft? If you had asked that question last year, the answer would have been: NO WAY. It's probably still no - Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott would be the guy - but you'd at least have to consider Goff with how much he has improved under first-year coach Sean McVay. The Rams came out of their bye and destroyed the Giants 51-17 in the Meadowlands on Sunday. Goff threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns on just 14 completions (in 22 attempts). The Rams already have scored more points than they did all of last season. The Pick: Houston can stay within 10.
Patriots at Broncos (+7.5, 46.5): This Sunday night game would have been the marquee matchup of the year from 2012-15 as that's when it featured the greatest individual rivalry the NFL has ever seen in Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Now it's a quarterback mismatch. The last Brady-Manning game was the AFC title tilt following the 2015 season. Denver's defense beat the crap out of Brady that day in a 20-18 home victory. The Pats pulled within 2 points with 12 seconds left but had to go for 2 because usually reliable kicker Stephen Gostkowski had missed an earlier PAT. The 2-point try failed, Denver reached Super Bowl 50 and upset Carolina in it with Manning then walking off into the sunset. The teams also met last year in Denver, and New England won 16-3. Brady was just 16 of 32 for 188 yards but was protected much better. The Pats are off their bye week, while Denver was crushed in Philadelphia on Sunday. Brock Osweiler started at QB for the Broncos but you might see Paxton Lynch here if he's 100 percent recovered from a shoulder injury. The Pick: Denver can stay within 7.
Cowboys at Falcons (-3, 50.5): This nearly was the NFC Championship Game last year, although it would have been in Dallas. The Cowboys were the conference's top seed but lost on the final play of the divisional round to Aaron Rodgers' Packers. That allowed second-seeded Atlanta to host the NFC title game (and the final NFL game in the Georgia Dome), where it routed Green Bay. The Falcons have won the past two in this series, but they haven't seen Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott yet. Dak will be on the field Sunday, but will Elliott? The absolutely absurdity of his suspension took another turn last Friday when the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Elliott a temporary stay of his suspension. A panel of federal judges will convene this week to hear Elliott's request for an injunction that would surely allow him to play all season. Or he could start serving his six-game suspension in Week 10, meaning he would be out until Christmas Eve vs. Seattle. This is just so stupid.The Pick: Wait on Zeke; Cowboys if he plays, Falcons if not.
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