It doesn’t look like Ryan Mallett will be suiting up for the Houston Texans when they host the Tennessee Titans. The uncertainty didn’t stop Sunday’s NFL odds from opening with Houston as a 6.5-point favorite.
Jason’s record after Week 11: 29-43 ATS, 13-17-1 Totals
Profit: minus-45.95 units
It shouldn’t make anyone happy that Ryan Mallett appears to be done for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. But his misfortune could turn out to be profitable for Houston Texans supporters – depending on how the Texans decide to handle things. Will they give Ryan Fitzpatrick the start this Sunday (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS) when the Tennessee Titans come to town? Or will they give fourth-round draft pick Tom Savage a chance?
Nobody knows. As we go to press, the Texans (5-6 SU, 6-5 ATS) refuse to concede that Mallett (67.6 passer rating) won’t be ready to play. And yet the Week 13 NFL odds have opened with Houston laying 6.5 points, and a total of 42.5. The betting market seems indifferent to the identity of Sunday’s quarterback, but that doesn’t mean we should be – even if it’s the Titans (2-9 SU, 3-7-1 ATS) we’re talking about here.
It was curious from the beginning that a rebuilding team like Houston would choose a veteran game manager like Fitzpatrick (87.1 passer rating this year) to be the starter in 2014. He’s more of a placeholder than a future building block. Fitzpatrick also has a limited upside (93.6 career rating in wins) to go with his limited downside (75.6 rating in losses). He is what he is.
Eventually, the Texans tired of Fitzmagic and decided to give Mallett a go in Week 11. And he played quite well in a 23-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns (–4.5 at home). Football Outsiders ranked Mallett’s performance No. 4 among quarterbacks that week with 119 Total DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement). But this was still more of a “game manager” scenario, as Houston rushed the ball 54 times, while Mallett was 20-of-30 for 211 yards, a pair of TDs and a pick. Mallett did his job, and he did it very efficiently.
That wasn’t the case in last week’s 22-13 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals (+3 away). However, we now know that Mallett was playing even though he was injured in that game, which explains his inaccuracy (21-of-45 for 189 yards and a pick). The former standout at Arkansas had been listed on the injury report during the week, but got the start anyway. Perhaps the Texans think they can tape him up and send him out there again.
Freak Out, Freak Out
The third option, and perhaps the most sensible in this case, is to give Savage an opportunity. But is he ready to handle the assignment? Mallett had the bye week to prepare for the Browns, and he spent three years as Tom Brady’s understudy with the New England Patriots. Savage, who played for three different college teams with little fanfare, saw limited action for Houston during the preseason. It’s a nice thought to “give the kid a chance,” but Savage has to be made ready in time, or it’s not much of an opportunity.
Which brings us to Option No. 4: Thaddeus Lewis. At press time, ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Texans are signing Lewis (81.0 career passer rating), who was last seen making five starts for the 2013 Buffalo Bills. Five profitable starts at 2-3 SU and 3-2 ATS. Lewis played for Texans head coach Bill O’Brien back in 2008 at Duke, so who knows, maybe he’ll be able to step right in this Sunday. Whatever the case, Houston has options, and we’re betting that a suitable quarterback will be chosen to face the Titans, which is why you should take the Texans as your NFL pick.
The Five Stars
Defense/Special Teams: HOU
Market Bias: TEN
Betting Line Value: HOU
Verdict: 1-star pick on HOU
Free NFL Pick: Bet 1.4 units on the Texans –6 (–110) at BetOnline