With Arian Foster out, look to fade Houston in close games against good run defenses. This write-up looks at Foster's importance to the Texans offense and offers an angle to consider with the running back out of the lineup.
Houston Texans fans are in mourning as their only offensive player to show a semblance of consistency over the past few seasons, Arian Foster, will be out for at least the first half of the 2015 season after requiring major surgery to fix a torn groin muscle suffered in training camp a few days ago. Any NFL fan will agree that what the 29-year-old dynamo means to the Texans offense is unparalleled, as he possesses the rare combination of vision, instincts, and hands to make him great as a traditional runner and a threat in the passing game. Toss in uncertainty at the quarterback position, as Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer battle it out for starter, and the Texans offense just went from a work in progress to completely unforeseeable. Houston's front office will more than likely target a veteran free-agent running back in the coming weeks, such as Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Johnson, or Knowshon Moreno, as the oft-injured Chris Polk and sophomore bruiser Alfred Blue, who put up some of the worst efficiency numbers at his position in the league last year, are probably not capable of carrying the backfield as a tandem for half a season. Whatever talent suits up as RB1 against the Kansas City Chiefs in week one will more than likely not have the effectiveness Foster has provided the Texans over the past several seasons. As a sports investor, I wanted to explore his absence in betting market contexts, and see if there are any trends or angles worth considering playing with or against the Texans while Foster is on the shelf.
Foster has been the most important piece to the Texans offense over the last few years, as a group of mediocre quarterbacks and an aging Andre Johnson has been ordinary at best. Since 2009, in either regular season or playoff games where Foster either did not play or have at least one rushing attempt, the Texans are 7-20 straight-up versus 43-30 when he did record a rush. In his absence, the offense averages 3.79 rushing yards per attempt as opposed to 4.33 when Foster is involved. The Texans score 2.40 offensive touchdowns when he plays and 2.15 with Foster out of the lineup. Moreover, the unit scores 2.4 more points per game with Foster healthy, and overall his absence amounts to a 4.5 difference in points scored versus allowed.
As one would expect, the markets are quite accurate predicting NFL odds for game totals and against the spread (ATS) when factoring in a Foster-led Texans team, averaging nearly a 50% split in both betting options in his career. Take Foster out of the lineup, though, and there may lay some value for the sports investor. Since 2009, Houston is 10-16-1 ATS and 12-15 in over/under wagering with Foster either not in the lineup or failing to record a rush attempt in a game he entered. Look for the Texans to struggle covering the spread if expected to win or challenge for one as a low priced dog. When Houston closed as favorites or dogs at four points or less, they have covered the spread only 30% of the time out of nearly 20 games. If the opposing defense is allowing less than 130.5 rushing yards per game, which if any higher would place them in roughly the bottom five teams for worst run defenses in the league, Houston has covered only once out of 12 games while the over has hit in 10 of those.
For what it is worth, while researching Foster's impact for the Texans, I found that Houston has covered the spread only 30% of the time in nearly 25 games against NFC opponents since signing the running back from Tennessee as an undrafted free agent in 2009. With Foster out of the lineup, the Texans are 0-4-1 against in this situation. Take this into consideration as the Texans take on three straight NFC opponents early in the season, the Carolina Panthers in week two, Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week three, and Atlanta Falcons in week four.
As always, use this information to support your leans and best of luck.