Houston Texans (-2.5, 40.5 o/u) at New England Patriots
After what has been a wacky first two weeks in the NFL, football fans are left saying, “we want some more!” And more is exactly what we’ll get this Thursday (September 22) when the Houston Texans (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) head to Massachusetts to take on the New England Patriots (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS) at Gillette Stadium (8:25 PM Eastern).
Houston enters this game following an impressive 19-12 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. The Texans defense generated three turnovers and frustrated Alex Smith all day, sacking him four times.
Led by superstar J.J. Watt, the Texans D is ranked third in total defense (274.5 yards allowed per game), third in points allowed (13 per game), and leads the league with nine sacks. But this is what we expected out of Houston.
What we weren’t so sure of was how their offense would perform with so many new pieces, and whether Brock Osweiler was a legitimate franchise quarterback. After two games, Houston is averaging 21 points per game (17th), 234.5 passing yards per game (23rd), and 113 rushing yards per game (11th).
Osweiler (41/68 for 499 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions) has shown glimpses of what the Texans hoped they were getting, but has also left a lot of big plays out there. The Texans didn’t pay Osweiler all that money to be a game manager, and their new quarterback will have to be more efficient in the red zone if Houston wants to legitimize itself as a top-dog in the AFC.
You do have to credit Osweiler for putting the ball in the hands of his play-makers: DeAndre Hopkins (12 catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns) and Will Fuller (nine catches for 211 yards and one touchdown). These two have been vital to the team’s offensive success, especially with Lamar Miller struggling to get much going on the ground (53 carries for 189 yards and no touchdowns).
If the Texans want to stay undefeated, their offensive line will have to do a better job opening up holes for Miller, especially to get passed the Patriots.
The Pats have managed to win their first two games of the season without Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski in their lineup. Instead, it has been Jimmy Garoppolo (42/60 for 498 yards and four touchdowns; 117.2 passer rating) getting it done under center, and a number of receivers making contributions – Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Martellus Bennett all have more than 125 yards receiving, while Danny Amendola has 98 yards and two touchdowns.
However, it is unlikely that Garoppolo will be taking the snaps on Thursday night, after spraining his AC joint in the second quarter of their Week 2 matchup. The Pats have yet to rule him out, but in all likelihood Jacoby Brissett (6/9 for 92 yards; 100.2 passer rating) will get the start. The rookie took over for Garoppolo against the Dolphins, and did just enough to protect the massive lead he was given.
With Brissett under center, you can bet LeGarrette Blount (51 carries for 193 yards and two touchdowns) will be relied upon even more against Houston. Head coach Bill Belichick will also have to get more out of his defense, which ranks 24th in yards-against after two weeks (401.5 yards allowed per game), and 14th in scoring (22.5 per game).
If the Patriots want to extend their record to 3-0, they will have to find a way to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback. To this point, New England has only recorded three sacks. They ranked second in the category last year, and it is quite clear that this team misses Chandler Jones (traded to Cardinals) and Rob Ninkovich (suspended for four games).
Houston’s defense is too good to be beaten by a third-string quarterback, regardless of who his coach is, and all signs point to Garoppolo being ruled out. Also, Brock Osweiler and company will be dealing with a secondary that’s giving up 320.5 yards per game through the air and allowed Ryan Tannehill to pick them apart in the second half.
The Texans are now 5-1 ATS in their last six games, and 4-2 ATS in their last six games on the road. They have the dominant defense and offensive firepower to go into Foxborough and knock off the Brady-less, Gronk-less, and Garoppolo-less Patriots.
Pick: Houston -2.5.
Photo xredit: Jack Newton (flickr) CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
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