The Houston Texans just can’t seem to beat the Indianapolis Colts, therefore, ever winning the AFC South is sort of a pipe dream, so they have to chase one of the AFC’s two Wild Card berths each year.
Let’s look at who Houston added to its roster, who it lost, who the Texans may have trouble beating this 2015 NFL Regular Season as well as a couple of spots on the schedule where it may be a good idea to bet on and to bet against this team, which will probably expect RB Arian Foster to again carry much of the load on Offense. This under-the-radar team may surprise in the Fall.
Can’t Beat the Colts and Can’t Lose to the Jaguars or Titans
The Houston Texans (50/1 to win Super Bowl, bet365) have the luxury of playing in the AFC’s weakest division, the AFC South, alongside the woeful Tennessee Titans (2-14 SU in 2014) and Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13), and that’s always a chance for 4 Wins (and 4 covers) for those following closely. And Houston almost has to win those 4 contests each season simply because the Indianapolis Colts don’t lose to Jacksonville or Tennessee and are trying hard to make a habit out of going 6-0 in the AFC South every year, like they did last year. And the year before. Like many teams, the Texans (9-6-1 ATS) will need solid play from their starting QB and they will likely have a competition between Free Agent-signee Brian Hoyer (Browns) and Ryan Mallett. The Texans' +0.37 Point Differential Per Possession ranked 11th in the NFL last season while Houston was tied for #2 in in the NFL in Turnover Differential with a +12 (34 Takeaways - 22 Giveaways). So, this team plays great Defense, as one would expect from any football team with the incredible J.J. Watt on that side of the ball. The Texans (20/1 to win AFC, William Hill) did lose legendary WR Andre Johnson (Colts), but Cecil Shorts III (53 receptions, 557 yards, TD) should be able to provide a new type of downfield threat and remember the name DeAndre Hopkins (76 receptions, 1,210 yards)—as this Clemson product has the potential to be a star WR and 2015 may be his breakout year with Houston. Then toss in new additions Nate Washington and Rookies Jaelen Strong and Keith Mumphery, and this team really has some decent WRs and should drive opposing DBs crazy.
But the big question for Houston, like so many of these NFL these teams looking to break through to the next level will be at QB. And in my mind, Arkansas bomber Mallett has always been a hidden gem, so maybe this is the year he finally emerges. He will battle the presumed favorite Hoyer for the top spot. And, letting Ryan Fitzpatrick go to the New York Jets was a really big gamble, but if the Texans (9-7 SU in 2014) can beat the Colts in Houston in Week 5 (Colts -2, NFL Games of the Year, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) or at Home in Week 15 in Naptown, and maybe knock off a couple of the teams it plays from the upstart AFC East (Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets) and two of the teams from the anemic NFC South (Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers), then maybe Houston can get a Wild Card berth? It sounds difficult and it seems the Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and Texans may all be fighting for that last Wild Card spot in the AFC with the same five teams making it to the AFC Playoffs as last season (Patriots, Broncos, Colts, Ravens, Steelers) except for the AFC North’s Cincinnati Bengals.
The Texans will lean heavily on RB Arian Foster (260 rushes, 1,246 yards, 8 TDs) to try to take any pressure off whomever ends up winning the starting QB job for Houston (+350 to win AFC South, bet365), but with all of those underrated WRs and workhorse RB Foster, Houston may have some very nice balance on Offense if they settle on a QB early on and establish a strong enough Passing attack. And strong-arm Mallett may be #2 on the Houston QB Depth Chart now, but for me, he is the direction the Texans should go after shipping Fitzpatrick and Keenum out of the Lone Star State this Offseason. Maybe having a QB that “just runs the Offense” will be OK for Houston, but teams that make and succeed in the NFL Playoffs always have established QBs with names like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Drew Brees and that could be a problem for the Texans (again) if the recently acquired Hoyer or Mallett don’t come through in 2015.
Houston Texans QB Depth: Brian Hoyer—Ryan Mallett—Tom Savage
Who’s New and Could Have an Impact? Free Agent S Stevie Brown (Giants), NT Brandon Deaderick (Saints), Rookie CB Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), Rookie LB Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State), Rookie WR Jaelen Strong (Arizona State), WR Keith Mumphery (Michigan State), LB Reshard Cliett (South Florida), DT Christian Covington (Rice), Rookie DE Jasper Coleman (William & Mary).
Who’s Gone From the Roster? QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Jets), WR Andre Johnson (Colts), QB Case Keenum (Rams)
Possible Losses on Schedule: Week 1 NFL Picks: Chiefs; Week 2: @ Panthers; Week 5: Colts; Week 7: @ Dolphins; Week 10: @ Bengals; Week 12: Saints; Week 13: @ Bills; Week 14: Patriots; Week 15: @ Colts
Some Good Potential Betting Spots in Regular Season: Betting on the Texans and laying the lumber when they play both the Titans (Week 8) and Jaguars (Week 17) at Home at NRG is recommended, as last season, Houston smashed Tennessee, 45-21 as 6-point favorites at Home while the Texans beat Jacksonville, 23-17, but failed to cover the 9-point spread by 3 points. And backing Houston on the Road against these two this 2015 season also seems logical. Last year, the Texans beat the Titans in Nashville, 30-16 as 3-point favorites while Houston topped the Jaguars, 27-13 in Jacksonville as TD (7-point) faves. So Houston won by 24, 14, 14 and 6 points in these games, covering 3 of the 4 (75%). While the Jaguars and Titans slowly try to get better, the Texans steadily have gotten better. And there’s a huge difference between the two. These are prime betting situations for the Texans. Also, Houston may beat the down-swinging Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 10 for what it’s worth.
Any Good Texans Futures Bets Now? Honestly, no. The Regular Season Team Win Total for the Texans is 8½ (Over -120, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), and that’s just too close to where they will probably end up although the slight lean is to the Over and a 9-7 or maybe 10-6 season if all goes well for Houston and because of the relatively easy schedule. And Houston probably isn’t going to win the AFC South and the Super Bowl is out of the question, so, finding individual spots on the schedule seems like the best route to take with this team.
Recent Relevant Trends: Texans 3-0 ATS L3 vs Dolphins, 3-0 ATS L3 Away; 3-0 ATS L3 vs Bills; 7-1 ATS L8 vs Titans but 0-3 ATS L3 at Home; 1-4 ATS L5 vs Patriots; 1-4 ATS L4 vs Jaguars but 3-1 ATS L4 Away; Texans 1-5-1 ATS L7 vs Colts, 0-4-1 ATS L5 Away; Texans -3 ATS L4 vs Chiefs
Players to Watch: LDE J.J. Watt, RB Arian Foster, WR DeAndre Hopkins, CB Jonathan Joseph, QB Brian Hoyer, WR Cecil Shorts, Rookie CB Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), Rookie LB Benardrick McKinney (Mississippi State), Rookie WR Jaelen Strong (Arizona State), WR Keith Mumphery (Michigan State), LB Reshard Cliett (South Florida), ROLB Jadeveon Clowney, Free Agent NT Vince Wilfork (Patriots), LB Brian Cushing, Free Agent S Rahim Moore (Broncos)
Bet Against Houston Texans in Regular Season: Week 5—at Home vs. Indianapolis Colts (Colts -2, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, NFL Games of the Year); Texans 1-5-1 ATS L7 vs. Colts
Bet On Houston Texans in Regular Season: Week 6—at Jacksonville Jaguars (Texans 3-1 ATS L4 Away vs. Jaguars); Week 8—at Home vs. Tennessee Titans (Texans 4-1 ATS L5 Home vs. Titans); Week 16—at Tennessee Titans (Texans 7-1 ATS L8 vs Titans); Week 17—at Home vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (Texans 0-3 ATS L3 Home vs Jaguars) > Texans 4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS vs. Titans and Jaguars in 2014.