Undervalued Texans the Right Bet for Week 7 NFL Picks vs. Steelers

Jason Lake

Thursday, October 16, 2014 3:07 PM GMT

The NFL odds suggest we’ve got a close one brewing for Monday Night Football between the Houston Texans and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their advanced stats beg to differ. So do their ATS records. 

Jason’s record after Week 6: 21-22 ATS, 5-10-1 Totals

Profit: minus-13.99 units

 

Another day, another game where the home team is laying three points. Those are the NFL odds for Monday night’s tilt (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) between the Houston Texans and the Pittsburgh Steelers. And they’re about as commonplace as football odds can get; take any two teams at random, and there’s probably not all that much difference in talent between them. Home-field advantage is worth about 2.5 points. There’s your spread right there.

Making NFL picks doesn’t get much easier than this. Not easier in the sense that you’re going to be right 100 percent of the time – we’re just talking about the handicapping process here. If you can demonstrate that one of the two teams in question is performing at a substantially higher level, voilà, instant NFL pick. You’d be wise to vet that pick before placing your bet, in case there’s been an injury or some other notable shake-up. Still, easy peasy.

 

3-3 > 3-3
If only we could get some agreement from our usual panel of experts. According to the statheads at Football Outsiders, the Steelers rank No. 20 in the NFL in overall efficiency (No. 15 offense, No. 23 defense, No. 15 special teams), while the Texans rank No. 24 (No. 23 offense, No. 15 defense, No. 25 special teams). Not much difference there, which you’d expect for a pair of 3-3 teams.

Pro Football Reference sees things differently. Their Simple Rating System thinks much more highly of Houston, giving the Texans a plus-2.9 SRS, which would put them No. 15 in the league. Pittsburgh has some catching up to do at minus-6.7 SRS, or No. 25 overall. That’s in the same vicinity as the 1-5 New York Jets (minus-7.1 SRS). Using the difference in SRS as a rough estimate for a fair point spread, Houston should be laying 6.5 points on the road.

 

The O’Brien Dynasty
Obviously that wouldn’t happen IRL. The Steelers still have a little bit of that Super Bowl smell with Mike Tomlin as their head coach and Ben Roethlisberger (93.3 passer rating) at quarterback. This is one of the most recognized brands in the NFL, and despite their 2-4 ATS record, the beloved blue-collar Steelers are No. 11 on the public money charts. But these are not your older brother’s Super Bowl contenders.

The Texans, in contrast, have a regional fan base (J.J. Watt commercials notwithstanding) and check in at No. 17 in public money despite going 4-2 ATS. They’ve only been to the playoffs twice since joining the league in 2002, and they’re coming off the worst season in franchise history at 2-14 (4-12 ATS). Their new head coach is a relatively unknown commodity in Bill O’Brien, and their new quarterback is one of the league’s more infamous “game managers” in Ryan Fitzpatrick (86.1 passer rating). This is not the profile of a public team.

Which is exactly why we want to bet on Houston this week. Market forces are putting the squeeze on this point spread – the same market forces we try to exploit on a regular basis. Not only are the Texans undervalued and underappreciated, they also have the benefit of extra rest after playing the Indianapolis Colts last Thursday, while the Steelers were up against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. We were close to making Houston a 5-star Deadbolt Lock of the Millennium – very close. Give O’Brien a little more time to prove himself, just in case he turns into another failed Bill Belichick disciple.

 

The Five Stars
Injuries/Suspensions/Travel/Rest: HOU
Defense/Special Teams: HOU
Coaching: PIT
Market Bias: HOU
Betting Line Value: HOU

Verdict: 3-star pick on HOU

Free NFL Pick: Bet 5.5 units on the Texans +3.5 (–117) at Intertops

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