2018 Houston Texans Road Schedule Odds with Expert Picks and Predictions
I'm about to make a statement that can't possibly be quantified statistically but one that I believe to be true at least in my limited memory: The 2017 Houston Texans might have been the most talented 4-12 team this century.
Seriously, go look at their roster. We start with quarterback Deshaun Watson. Remember, he didn't even start Week 1 for the Texans but quickly relieved Tom Savage in that game and absolutely blew up soon after. Watson was setting records left and right and was the clear Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite as well as an MVP candidate before tearing his ACL in practice before a Week 9 game vs. the Colts.
Watson had one of the NFL's five-best receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and certainly a Top 10 all-around running back in Lamar Miller. On the other side of the ball, there was one of the best defensive linemen in NFL history in JJ Watt, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. His season ended to a broken leg on Oct. 8 vs. the Chiefs. Whitney Mercilus is one of the best pass-rushing linebackers in the league but got hurt in the same Kansas City game and was also done.
I'm not going to sit here and say that Houston would have won the Super Bowl if all those guys stayed healthy - and injuries are part of the NFL. But I do believe the Texans were at least a wild-card team if Watson and Watt stay on the field. Unfortunately, Houston didn't get to benefit from that slide backward because it had to give its first- and second-round 2018 picks to Cleveland due to trades (the first-rounder to move up and get Watson, which is still looking like a great move).
It's tough to handicap Houston this year not knowing how Watson and Watt will recover, but reportedly they should be just fine and Watson played the preseason opener. It is worrisome that it was Watson's second career torn ACL and that Watt has played only eight total games the past two years with his body breaking down. All we can do is assume they will be on the field.
Houston was 1-7 on the road last season, 4-4 against the spread and 3-5 "over/under." The Texans travel to four playoff teams from 2017: New England, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Philadelphia. Visiting both Super Bowl teams? Clearly the road schedule is tougher than at home. I project a 4-4 road mark.
Sept. 9 at Patriots (-6.5, 51): Why not throw Watson right into the fire! At least Houston defensively won't have to worry about the suspended Julian Edelman. Watson's coming-out party was Week 3 at New England last year where he threw for 301 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 36-33 loss. Key trend: Texans 0-6 SU & 1-5 ATS at Patriots including playoffs.
Sept. 16 at Titans (pick'em): This marks the third time in franchise history the Texans have opened the season with consecutive road games (2003 and 2008). Tennessee's new head coach is former Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel. Houston lost in Nashville in Week 13 a season ago, 24-13, long after Watson was hurt. Key trend: Texans 6-4 ATS in past 10 at Titans.
Sept. 30 at Colts (+3): Our first-ever Watson vs. Andrew Luck matchup - we hope. Both were Heisman runners-up. Houston rarely wins in Indy and closed last year with a 22-13 loss there. Some thought that would be Coach Bill O'Brien's final game. T.J. Yates was the QB that day. Key trend: Texans have been a favorite just twice at Colts and are 0-2 SU.
Oct. 21 at Jaguars (-3): This is earliest Houston has ever completed all three divisional road trips in a season. The Texans are 6-2 against the Jaguars under O'Brien, and both of those losses came in 2017. It was 45-7 in J'ville in Week 15. Yates started that one as well and was awful. Key trend: Texans 7-3 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Nov. 4 at Broncos (pick'em): Houston on extra rest off a Thursday home game vs. Miami in Week 8 and ahead of its bye week. Denver's new starting quarterback, assuming he still is by this point of the year, is former Texans QB Case Keenum. He was 2-8 as a starter in Houston. Key trend: Texans have had three pick'em games and are 1-2 in them.
Nov. 18 at Redskins (+3): Texans out of their bye. This is really where the team can go on a run with the next three all at home and Houston likely to be favored in all. New Redskins signal-caller Alex Smith seemed to always beat the Texans while he was Kansas City's quarterback. He had a big game against them in Week 5 last year in a 42-34 win. Key trend: Texans 3-4-1 ATS at NFC East foes.
Dec. 15 at Jets (+1.5): Saturday game. Should be Watson vs. Sam Darnold by this point. Houston lost its first five all-time meetings vs. the Jets but won the last two, most recently in 2015. Key trend: Texans 0-3 ATS all-time as a December road favorite of 3 points or fewer.
Dec. 23 at Eagles (-5.5): The schedule-makers did Houston no favors with four straight likely cold-weather outdoor games to close the road schedule. Watson vs. Carson Wentz: Two quarterbacks the Browns could have had but opted to trade out of the spot they were drafted. Typical Browns. Key trend: Texans 2-7-1 ATS in past 10 as December road dog of at least 5.5 points.
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