The winless Texans are practically desperate to get into the win column, but the NFL odds are stacked against them for their week 3 clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Can the Texans defy the odds?
Houston Texans (0-2-0) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0-0)
Sunday, September 27, 2020 – 1:00 PM EST – Heinz Field, Pittsburgh
Houston Texans Persistently Disadvantaged
NFL schedulers didn’t look favorably upon the Houston Texans when setting their 16-game haul over the four months of the regular season. From opening their 2020 campaign against the Kansas City Chiefs to the ensuing date with the Baltimore Ravens in week 2 and the Pittsburgh Steelers this week, the Texans were set upon a tough course indeed. One that they were always likely to traverse while being held at the disadvantage – as far as the betting was concerned.
Against the Chiefs and Ravens, the Texans closed on +9.5 and +7.5 points, respectively, on the NFL odds board, but on neither occasion did the Texans even come close to whiffing at the aforementioned point spreads. This week, the Texans opened as the 5.5-point underdogs in early betting NFL markets with BookMaker, among several other of the best sports betting sites.
The Texans kicked off the season with a 34-20 loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Then they were decimated by the Ravens, laid to waste in a 33-16 defeat at NRG stadium. All told the stats make for dire reading, the Texans strike a paltry figure behind a 0-2-0 SU and ATS record, underpinned by a 15.5-point losing margin on average and a -7 point differential versus the spread.
Through two games of the season, Deshaun Watson isn’t quite living up to expectations. On the contrary, he’s struggling: 55.1 QBR, 66.2% completion, 528 passing yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INT. One could argue that Watson was dealt a brutal card. To face both Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson in succession is a tough ask, by any standard. Then again, to be a little contrarian, it is fair to assume he was expected to be on a level with his NextGen counterparts—let’s face it, the ink on his ground-breaking contract is barely dry.
Of course, it’s not all down to Deshaun Watson, even though he’s clearly not playing at a high level. The Texans made some curious decisions in the offseason, namely trading away one of his favorite targets, DeAndre Hopkins, a player he spent his college days with before both were drafted by Houston. His absence, along with a rather wafer-thin offense, is part of the problem; the reason why the Texans scoring offense is ranked 29th in the league with 18 points per game (PPG) – which is down from 12th with a 23.9 PPG in 2019.
Bill O’Brien’s roster decisions, as well as how he’s run his offense in the first two weeks, raises some question marks. In week 1, most of the Texans’ points (13) came in garbage time. They went scoreless for 45 minutes after their initial score in the first quarter against a defense that was just cut up last Sunday by the Chargers and rookie quarterback, Justin Herbert (on no preparations whatsoever).
The defense is also letting the side down, barely passing muster with 33.5 points per game conceded. The Texans are ranked 28th in the league in scoring defense (opponents points per game), which is down from 22nd with 25.3 PPG in 2019. Once again, an argument can be made for the quality of opponent the Texans D faced in the first two weeks, namely two of the league’s best quarterbacks in Mahomes and Jackson. But excuses can ring hollow sometimes.
Big Ben and the Steelers Ascending
A year after suffering a season-ending elbow injury, Big Ben returns to the gridiron in top-form, and the Steelers are reaping the rewards. Up in the NFC North standings with a 2-0-0 SU mark after the first two weeks, Pittsburgh sits on a level with their biggest rivals Baltimore Ravens.
Granted it’s been a straightforward trek thus far, dates against the Giants and Broncos weren’t too arduous for Mike Tomlin’s side and they won both games with relative ease. But, perhaps, it was exactly what the doctor ordered for Big Ben to get up and running again.
Roethlisberger is averaging 270 passing yards a game and has tossed for 5TDs (third most in the league) and 1 INT. Against the Giants in week 1, Roethlisberger even outrushed Saquon Barkley, which is saying a lot about his fitness and form.
The Steelers have stellar offensive weapons: Donte Johnson is averaging 74 yards per game and has 1 TD, Chase Claypool is averaging 63.5 yards per game and has 1 TD, JuJu Smith-Schuster is averaging 58.5 yards per game and has 2TDs.
The real strength of the Steelers is the D-line. Last season, without Big Ben, the Steelers defense kept the side alive and competitive, very nearly willing Pittsburgh into the playoffs by sheer grit and determination. The formidable Steelers defense, spearheaded by T.J. Watt and crew, is back in full force and picking up from where it left off. Through two games, the Steelers D-line is allowing a paltry 18.5 points per game, which is slightly better than their 2019 average of 18.9 PPG.
Steelers are 2-0-0 SU and 1-1-0 ATS, underscored by a 7.5-point winning margin on average and a +1.5 differential versus the spread.
NFL Betting Verdict
This game has Pittsburgh Steelers written all over it. The Steelers are high on confidence, in-form and motivated to stay on the winning track. On paper, the Texans may appear to be a step up in quality from the Giants and Broncos, but Tomlin’s no-nonsense approach to the game and stellar coaching should have the Steelers up for the challenge. In particular, the stellar defense will be up for the task. Heck, if the Chiefs defense could thwart Watson and render the Texans offense pointless…well, then, the Steelers should steamroll them altogether.