Bears vs. Texans - Best Plays To Add To Your Week 1 NFL Picks

Chicago Bears player in action

Tuesday, September 6, 2016 9:22 PM GMT

The Brock Osweiler Era gets underway in Houston on Sunday afternoon as the defending AFC South champion hosts Chicago to kick off the 2016 season. The Texans are 6.5-point favorites on NFL odds with a total of 44. 

Bears What To Watch For
I know a lot of Bears fans and they aren't expecting good things from this team in 2016. The hopes were decent following an offseason in which Chicago upgraded the defense by adding free agent defensive end Akiem Hicks as well as linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman. The Bears moved up a few spots in the first round of the 2016 draft to take Georgia pass-rushing linebacker, Leonard Floyd. Chicago had maybe the worst group of linebackers in the NFL last year and perhaps now it will be a strength.

Except for the best player on the defense, linebacker Pernell McPhee, has started the season on the PUP list, which means he will miss at least six weeks. McPhee, 27, finished tied for second in tackles for loss (10) and third in sacks (six) in 14 games in 2015 for Chicago. He wasn't able to practice once in full during camp off knee surgery. It's fair to wonder if McPhee will ever be the same player. Floyd, meanwhile, is way too skinny to make a big splash as a rookie. The Bears are also banged up at their weakest spot on the team: the secondary. The top three cornerbacks – Tracy Porter (concussion), Kyle Fuller (knee scope) and Bryce Callahan (hamstring/groin strain) – all are hoping to play Sunday.

As for the Chicago offense, quarterback Jay Cutler had his best season in a Bears uniform in 2015. He completed 64.4 percent of his passes for 3,659 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 picks. But the guy largely credited with Cutler's success, offensive coordinator Adam Gase, is now Miami's head coach. The Bears also let top running back Matt Forte walk in free agency and traded tight end Martellus Bennett to New England. Their primary replacements will be second-year Jeremy Langford and injury-prone Zach Miller, respectively.

Chicago made two interesting moves over the weekend in releasing kicker Robbie Gould, the franchise's all-time scoring leader, and signing former Packers Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton, who was surprisingly released by Green Bay. With Sitton and Kyle Long, the Bears now have one of the best pairs of guards in the NFL. The Bears signed Connor Barth to replace Gould. Barth made 23 of 28 field goals in 12 games last year with Tampa Bay.

This is the second season as Bears head coach for John Fox, and his teams have improved in Year 2. Carolina went to 7-9 in Fox's first season in 2002 to 11-5 and a Super Bowl appearance in 2003. Denver was 8-8 in Fox's first season in 2011 and 13-3 the next year. I don't see the trending continuing nearly as dramatically in Chicago, which was 6-10 in 2015.

The Bears were 6-2 ATS on NFL odds last season on the road and 4-4 O/U away from home.

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Texans What To Watch For
Houston was the primary beneficiary of an injury-plagued season by Indianapolis Colts star quarterback Andrew Luck last year as the Texans were 9-7 and won the AFC South for the first time since 2012. But in the wild-card game against Kansas City, Houston was embarrassed 30-0. Quarterback Brian Hoyer had one of the worst playoff games in NFL history in completing just 15-for-34 for 136 yards with four picks and a lost fumble.

After that performance, the Texans knew they had to upgrade under center and they were able to lure Brock Osweiler away from Denver in free agency. Osweiler had his moments last year while starting eight games for an injured Peyton Manning. Osweiler completed 61.8 percent of his passes for 1,967 yards, 10 TDs and six picks, But he was benched in the second half of Week 17 for Manning, and of course the Broncos went on to the Super Bowl. They had groomed Osweiler to replace the retired Manning, but Houston offered much more money -- and Osweiler reportedly was still a bit bitter about that bench.

Osweiler now has one of the NFL's top receivers to throw to in DeAndre Hopkins, who caught 111 passes for 1,521 yards and 11 scores last year. The Texans also took Notre Dame speedster receiver Will Fuller with their first-round pick. And the team said goodbye to veteran tailback Arian Foster and replaced him with Dolphins free agent Lamar Miller. This offense has major potential now.

The Houston defense was No. 3 in the NFL last year and is led by the incomparable J.J. Watt, who won his third Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2015 and led the league with 17.5 sacks. He missed all of the training camp and the preseason following back surgery in July but apparently will play Sunday. Watt was officially activated from the physically unable to perform list Saturday.

The Texans were 5-4 ATS on NFL picks at home last season and 3-6 O/U there (both including playoffs).

Series History
The Texans haven't been around all that long but they lead the Bears 3-0 all time. This is the first time the teams will play in Houston since a 31-24 Texans win in December 2008. The last meeting was Week 10 of the 2012 season in Chicago and Houston won 13-6. The Texans picked Cutler off twice before knocking him out with an injury late in the second quarter. Chicago had four turnovers overall and just eight first downs. Houston didn't exactly light it up on offense with 13 first downs and 215 yards.

Chicago Bears vs Houston Texans
I don't like to read too much into the preseason, but the Bears didn't look good at all. Their defense might be a bit better this year, but the offense will be worse. This is one of my top plays of the week: give the points at your choice of A+ rated sportsbook and do it soon before it potentially rises to 7 or 7.5. Also, go 'under.' The Bears are 0-4 ATS in their past four September games. The 'under' is 4-0 in Houston's past four at home.

Free NFL Picks: Bears +6.5 -105 & Under 44.5 -105
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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