2017 Houston Texans Home Schedule Odds with Expert Picks and Predictions
Sometimes the schedule for writing these stories works out perfectly on its own. Unfortunately, I mean that in a bad way for the Houston Texans, the two-time AFC South champions.
The main story lines surrounding the Texans in camp were the return of three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt returning from back surgery that sidelined for all but three games last season and the quarterback battle between incumbent Tom Savage and rookie Deshaun Watson. More on that in a second.
Alas, those were overshadowed Wednesday when second-year receiver Will Fuller broke his collarbone in practice. He will undergo surgery and is out for 2-3 months. That's going to hurt. Fuller is one of the fastest players in the NFL. The team's 2016 first-round pick out of Notre Dame exploded out of the gates last year with games of 107 and 104 receiving yards. No player not named Jerry Rice can sustain that pace, and Fuller finished the season with 47 catches for 635 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games. Not huge numbers but still fifth among rookies in catches and third in yards - and, remember, he had some of the worst quarterback play in the NFL with Brock Osweiler and then Savage. Fuller was also a dangerous punt returner.
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Just the threat of Fuller going deep - his average target last season was 15.5 yards downfield, the fourth longest in the NFL -- helped open the field for No. 1 DeAndre Hopkins, whose numbers were way down last year but, again, Osweiler. It's likely the Texans will now start former Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller opposite Hopkins. Miller, a third-round pick in the 2016 draft, caught just 15 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown over 10 games. Jaelen Strong also will see more action now. The Texans could also move running back Tyler Ervin to wide receiver. Maybe they go sign Anquan Boldin.
The Fuller news certainly doesn't help either Savage or Watson. Coach Bill O'Brien, who is usually pretty hard on rookies, has been singing Watson's praises so far. Houston gave up its first-round pick this year and next to trade up to get Watson. I believe he wins the job. I favored Tennessee to win the AFC South as it was, and now I do a bit more. Fuller could be worth one game, dropping Houston from 9-7 to 8-8.
Houston was 7-1 at home last season, 4-3-1 against the spread and 3-5 "over/under."The Texans host just two playoff teams in 2017: Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Houston has one stretch of three straight at home but then no others even back-to-back. The Texans have the seventh-easiest schedule overall with an opponents' combined 2016 winning percentage of .455. BetOnline lists their win total at 8.5, with both at -110. I projected a 3-5 road record and forecast a 5-3 home mark so lean under that total. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 10 vs. Jaguars ( -4, 42): It's the eighth time in nine years that Houston opens at home. The Texans have never lost to Jacksonville under O'Brien (6-0) and are 11-4 all-time against the Jaguars at NRG Stadium. It was 21-20 in Week 15 last year, a game in which Osweiler was benched for Savage, who threw for 260 yards in leading a comeback from down 13-0. Key betting trend: Texans 4-4 ATS in series as at least a 4-point home favorite.
Oct. 1 vs. Titans (-3): I believe Houston will be on a two-game skid into this one after a Week 2 trip to Cincinnati and Week 3 visit to New England. The Texans are looking for six consecutive home wins against the Titans for the first time in team history. It was 27-20 in Week 4 last year. Fuller had a tiebreaking 67-yard punt return for a touchdown. Key betting trend: Texans have covered five of past six in series as at least a 3-point home favorite.
Oct. 8 vs. Chiefs (-1): It's the third consecutive year the Chiefs travel to NRG Stadium. Houston won 19-12 in Week 2 a season ago. Osweiler was picked off twice, but Hopkins had seven catches for 113 yards and a TD, while Nick Novak kicked four field goals. Key betting trend: Texans 2-8 ATS in past 10 at home vs. AFC West.
Oct. 15 vs. Browns (-9.5): This is ahead of Houston's bye week, meaning it doesn't have to leave home for more than a month. I think the Texans must go 3-0 in this stretch to have any shot at winning the division. Will the Texans see Osweiler here? I highly doubt he's starting by this point, if ever, for Cleveland barring injury. He might not even be on the team. Houston has won five of the last six meetings against Cleveland. Key betting trend: Texans 7-3 ATS in past 10 before bye (any location).
Nov. 5 vs. Colts (-3): Texans off a Week 8 trip, and likely loss, to Seattle. Houston swept the season series with the Colts for the first time in franchise history in 2016. It was 26-23 in OT in Week 6 at home. Houston became the first NFL team to rally from a 14-point deficit in the final 3 minutes since 2011. That was probably Osweiler's best moment with the team, throwing for 269 yards and two scores. He hit C.J. Fiedorowicz from 26 yards out with 49 seconds left to send the game to OT. Key betting trend: Texans have been at least a 3-point home favorite only four times in series and are 3-1 ATS.
Nov. 19 vs. Cardinals (-2.5): Houston is at the Rams the previous Sunday. One reason that Houston reportedly traded up to No. 12 overall get Watson? The Cardinals were eyeing him at No. 13 to be Carson Palmer's eventual replacement. Key betting trend: Texans 2-3-1 ATS at home vs. NFC West.
Dec. 10 vs. 49ers (-9): The Texans are off an important trip to Tennessee in Week 13. One reason Houston went and got Osweiler? Because of how bad current 49ers starting QB Brian Hoyer was for Houston in the Texans' wild-card loss to the Chiefs following the 2015 season. Key betting trend: Texans 6-4 ATS in past 10 as a 9-point home favorite vs. anyone (lost past three SU & ATS).
Dec. 25 vs. Steelers (+1): Houston visits Jacksonville the previous Sunday. Incidentally, this game will also be live-streamed on Amazon. The Texans haven't faced the Steelers since Week 7 of the 2014 season. Pittsburgh won 30-23 at home. Key betting trend: Texans 3-7 ATS in past 10 as a home dog.
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