The Jets appear like they will catch a break when they visit Houston in an important game for both. The Jets opened as 2.5 point favorites on NFL odds but that line could change with Houston's QB.
Jets Have Dropped 3 of Past 4
New York (5-4) really can't afford to lose to a team like Houston and hope to make the playoffs. The Jets are currently No. 7 in the AFC standings, one game ahead of Kansas City (which is surging), Oakland, Miami and Houston.
The Jets will have a bit more time to prepare for this one as they played last Thursday at home and lost 22-17 to Buffalo in Bills coach Rex Ryan's first game against his former team. New York played pretty terrible for most of the first three quarters and was down 22-3. But a Brandon Marshall 14-yard TD catch from Ryan Fitzpatrick with 4:39 left in the third and an Eric Decker 31-yard TD from Fitzpatrick at 7:23 of the fourth made it 22-17. Alas, the Jets blew a chance inside the Bills' 10-yard line after a miffed Buffalo punt in the final minutes, failing to score on fourth down. And then Fitzpatrick was intercepted when New York got the ball back with under two minutes left.
Fitzpatrick struggled big time, completing just 15-for-34 for 193 yards, those two TDs and two picks. The Jets also lost two fumbles, including a Devin Smith kickoff return that was returned 19 yards by Buffalo's Duke Williams for a TD in the second quarter and a 9-3 lead. The New York defense played well enough to win, holding Buffalo to 13 first downs and 280 yards. But you aren't winning games when your turnover margin is minus-4.
The Jets should have Fitzpatrick here. He played through a torn ligament in his non-throwing thumb vs. Buffalo and had surgery on Friday. But he was at practice on Wednesday. Obviously keep an eye out for problems with snaps under center or on handoffs.
New York's secondary could get back two reinforcements this week in cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safety Calvin Pryor. The latter has missed the Jets' past three games due to a high ankle sprain, but said he'll play vs. Houston. Cromartie missed the Buffalo game with a quad injury and has a good shot of returning.
The Jets are 4-4-1 against the spread on NFL odds and 5-4 'over/under.'
Houston Likely Turning To Backup QB
The Texans pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season -- maybe the biggest -- on Monday night when they went to unbeaten Cincinnati as a 10.5-point underdog and won 10-6. What made that win even more unlikely is that Houston starting quarterback Brian Hoyer, who had been playing quite well of late, had to leave in the third quarter with a concussion and the Texans turned to recently signed T.J. Yates. And Yates threw the winning 22-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins early in the fourth quarter. The Houston defense made it stand up as it held Cincinnati to 256 total yards and forced two turnovers.
Hoyer remains in the NFL's concussion protocol and hadn't practiced as of Wednesday so he's not likely to play -- if that changes, Houston likely would be a very slight favorite at sportsbooks. Yates hasn't started a game since Houston's divisional-round playoff loss to Baltimore in January 2012. He would be the fifth quarterback to start for Coach Bill O'Brien, who is only in his second year. The others are Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum and the Jets' Fitzpatrick, who was traded to New York this past offseason for a late-round draft pick. Before that trade, the Jets were in negotiations with Hoyer. The Texans have supplied the Jets with their general manager (Mike Maccagnan), quarterback (Fitzpatrick) and kicker (Randy Bullock).
It's likely that Houston will get back two defenders who missed the Bengals game in end/linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and cornerback Kareem Jackson. The Texans' defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in the past 10 quarters (second half of Week 7 blowout loss in Miami, entire Week 8 game vs. Tennessee and then none vs. Bengals). J.J. Watt has 9.5 sacks, second in the NFL. Jets right tackle Breno Giacomini and right guard Brian Winters will largely be responsible for Watt this week. The Texans have the best third-down defense (27.0 percent) in the NFL.
At 4-5, Houston is tied with Indianapolis atop the sad AFC South with Indianapolis. The Texans are 4-5 ATS on NFL picks and 5-3-1 O/U.
Not much to read from the last meeting as it was on a Monday night in October 2012 and the Texans won 23-17 at home. The quarterbacks that night were Matt Schaub (now a Ravens backup) for Houston and Mark Sanchez (now an Eagles backup but will start this week) for New York. That's Houston's only win in six games all-time vs. the Jets.
If Hoyer somehow plays, go Houston. But since that's not likely and it's a short week, take New York. The Jets are 4-1-1 ATS in their past six road games. The Texans have covered only four of their past 17 after a win.
NFL Free Pick: New York Jets +1 (-110) at Youwager