NFL Picks: Houston at San Diego Week 1 Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 8/1/2013
The opening week of the 2013 season concludes with a doubleheader on "Monday Night Football," as has been the case the past few seasons, and the nightcap should be a good one when San Diego hosts Houston. It wouldn't shock me if this is the highest-scoring game of Week 1. These teams haven't met since 2010 when the Chargers won 29-23 in Houston behind four touchdown passes from Philip Rivers. Arian Foster rushed for 127 yards and two scores to lead Houston.
Texans at Chargers Betting Story Lines
I have no idea what to make of San Diego this year. It doesn't seem that long ago the Bolts had as much talent as anyone, but they have missed the playoffs three years straight. San Diego finally gave up on Coach Norv Turner and perhaps weakened a division rival by hiring former Broncos coordinator Mike McCoy to replace him. If McCoy could make Tim Tebow into a decent quarterback, then maybe he can salvage Rivers, who is probably in a make-or-break season. The guy is rivaled only by Mark Sanchez in terms of turnovers the past two years, with Rivers totaling a whopping 47. His picks actually dropped last season from 2011, but Rivers had an incredible 13 fumbles.
To be fair, his offensive line was one of the worst in the NFL, allowing 49 sacks. It should be better this year with a few free-agent additions and the drafting of Alabama's D.J. Fluker. When Rivers had a QB rating of at least 100 last year, the Chargers were 6-1. Maybe that improved offensive line, if it actually is, will help running back Ryan Mathews, who seems in a bit of a make-or-break season of his own. I thought this guy would be a star when drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft out of Fresno State, but it just hasn't happened. Mainly the problem has been staying healthy. For example, in 2011 when he managed to play in 14 games, Mathews had good numbers: 1,091 yards and six scores rushing with 50 catches for 455 yards. In the two other seasons, he hasn't been nearly as effective and has played in 12 games each.
The San Diego defense was actually pretty good last year but will be missing a key piece in 2013 after linebacker Melvin Ingram, the team's 2012 first-round pick, tore an ACL in OTAs back in May. He got better and better as last year went on. HIs injury was a big reason that the Bolts signed future Hall of Famer Dwight Freeney.
I wonder if the Texans would fire Coach Gary Kubiak if the team doesn't take the next step this year. Yes, Houston won a franchise-record 12 games in 2012. However, it hasn't advanced past the divisional round in the postseason, beating Cincinnati in the wild-card round both of the past two seasons and then generally getting thumped. Houston absolutely should have had home-field advantage throughout last year's playoffs but collapsed upon itself at the end, losing three of four in blowout fashion. Stud receiver Andre Johnson probably only has one or two big years left at age 32, and injuries have started to creep in. Houston is hoping first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins can take some of the load off Johnson.
The Texans signed former Ravens safety Ed Reed this offseason, but he might not be ready for the opener after undergoing offseason hip surgery. He's past his prime but still effective when 100 percent. The biggest addition will be the return of star linebacker Brian Cushing. He was limited to five games last year after tearing his ACL. And, of course, the Texans have perhaps the most disruptive defensive player in the league in end J.J. Watt, the 2012 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He's only 24. Scarily, Watt dominated last year despite playing with an elbow injury.
Texans at Chargers Week 1 Betting Odds and Trends
At WagerWeb, the Texans opened as three-point favorites with a total of 46. Houston was 9-7 ATS last season (4-4 on road) and 7-9 “over/under” (3-5 on road). San Diego was 7-9 ATS (2-6 at home) and 10-6 O/U (4-4 at home). Houston closed last regular season failing to cover in three of its final four. As a three-point favorite or less in 2012, the Texans were 1-0 (31-25 win at Denver). The Bolts finished last season failing to cover their final four at home. They were +3 twice last year and were 1-1 ATS.
NFL Picks: Texans at Chargers Betting Prediction
Houston should roll to the AFC South title again because Tennessee and Jacksonville stink, and I fully expect the Colts to take a bit of a step back. However, Houston might need to win this game. It certainly should win the following week in its home opener against Tennessee but then has a beast of a three-game stretch: at Baltimore, vs. Seattle and at San Francisco. Get through those first five at 3-2 and 11 wins is very doable. A 1-4 start isn't out of the question, though. Four of San Diego's next six after the Texans are on the road, so if it has any playoff hopes the Bolts also likely need a win. Honestly, I'd probably hold off on this line to see if it moves a half-point. At 3.5, I like the Bolts. At 2.5 I'd go Houston. Over regardless.
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