Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013, up to December 21 inclusive:
1-1 ML (+0.71 units)
God bless the Houston Texans. They were pretty much doomed to failure in Sunday’s 37-13 loss to the Denver Peyton Mannings, who covered as 10-point road favorites to leave Houston at 2-13 SU and 3-12 ATS going into the last game of the 2013 regular season. One more loss, and the Texans will lock down the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Conveniently enough, Houston’s final game will take place on the road, specifically at LP Field in Nashville, where the Tennessee Titans (6-9 SU, 6-7-2 ATS) will try to send their faithful fans home with a smile. They haven’t been doing a very good job of that, though. Tennessee is 2-5 SU and 1-5-1 ATS at The Album this year. And this being Week 17, who knows what shenanigans we’ll see on Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS). NFL odds for this matchup were pending as we went to press.
Tanking for Teddy
We do know that the Texans have every disincentive to win on Sunday. It’s bad enough that they have to hit the road for their last game; it’s an outdoor game in late December, as well. The very long-range forecast for Nashville calls for partly cloudy skies at kick-off with temperatures in the mid-40s. It’s not Siberia by any means, but it’s not Ibiza either.
In theory, QB Matt Schaub (77.7 passer rating) will be highly motivated to get a victory and maybe keep his job. Case Keenum (78.2 passer rating) sprained his thumb last week against the Indianapolis Colts and didn’t play against Denver, but his shot at the No. 1 gig appears to have evaporated anyway after four straight ugly starts. How would Teddy Bridgewater look in a Texans uniform?
Chortles for Bortles
Then again, the Texans probably don’t have to lose on purpose this Sunday to get their quarterback of the future. Bridgewater has slipped a bit on most draft boards because of his assorted injuries, and he still hasn’t committed to leaving Louisville after this season. Houston could go instead with Central Florida QB Blake Bortles, who some say has a higher upside than Bridgewater. Or the Texans could roll the dice on 2012 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M.
As for the Titans, they could probably use a quarterback of their own, considering that Jake Locker (86.7 passer rating) is on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury and has yet to play a full season in the NFL. Ryan Fitzpatrick (83.3 passer rating) is a competent QB, but hardly a franchise quarterback, as the Buffalo Bills discovered to their dismay. However, Tennessee has won too many games this year to be jockeying for draft position. We can expect the Titans to give it the proverbial 110 percent on Sunday in front of their fans.
Man Down for Manning
At the very least, the Titans can say they’re better than the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tennessee went to EverBank Field and came away with a 20-16 victory, creating a push in the sportsbooks betting lines. Fitzpatrick was solid enough, throwing just one pick, but it was the combined running of Shonn Greene (91 yards on 19 carries, one TD) and Chris Johnson (90 yards on 22 carries) that earned the win for the Titans.
Houston had the No. 10-ranked rushing defense in the league going into Week 16, but only the No. 24-ranked pass defense, which gave up four TDs to Manning and the Broncos. Then again, Denver also gained 114 rushing yards on just 18 carries, which goes to show how much Houston cares about stuffing the run. I’ll recommend Tennessee blind here as your NFL pick, but again, it’s Week 17. You might want to wait for the football betting lines and some confirmation of who’s playing and who isn’t. Just a suggestion.
NFL Pick: Take the Titans