Cincinnati Bengals (5-8-1 SU, 5-9 ATS) vs. Houston Texans (8-6 SU, 6-7-1 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Saturday, December 24, 2016, 8:25 PM EST
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
TV: NFL Network
by Badger, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CIN pk/HOU pk
Over/Under Total: 42
The Cincinnati Bengals find themselves in the role of the grinch on Christmas Eve night this week, hoping to spoil the Houston Texans bid to win the AFC South and earn an AFC playoff spot when the Bengals travel to NRG Stadium to take on the Texans in a special Saturday night week 16 NFL tilt on the NFL Network.
The Bengals nearly played the role of spoiler last week, jumping out in front of the Pittsburgh Steelers before letting it slip away, 24-20. But that has been the biggest reason why Cincinnati finds themselves outside of the AFC playoffs looking in this season … they just keep letting victories slip away.
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But there will be a great storyline for Saturday’s Christmas Eve game in Houston, as it will be the first career NFL start for Texans quarterback Tom Savage. Houston coach Tom O’Brien finally pulled the Texans free-agent nightmare Brock Osweiler from the starting role midway through last week’s game versus Jacksonville, and Savage responded by rallying the Texans to the 21-20 victory. O’Brien waited one day before announcing on Monday that Savage would be the Texans starter this week at QB, rewarding the former Rutgers star instead of Osweiler whom the Texans paid $72 million in the offseason to get him away from Denver.
Maybe it’s because oddsmakers don’t really know what they are going to get out of Savage at QB, or maybe its because they still think the Bengals will play with a chip on the shoulder after being eliminated from playoff contention last week, but either way the this game opened as a pick em and has stayed a pick on the board at most sports books all week. You can find a few books here and there that will have moved the point spread up or down a point to accommodate the handle coming in on both sides of this game, but overall the majority of sports books are still sitting right at a pick due to the fact that most “sharp” bettors are siding with the Bengals (59%) against the inexperienced Savage.
The over/under total opened at 41.5 and has moved up to 42 at most sports books, although like most totals every week if you look hard enough and are willing to pay the extra juice to move it around a little you can find the total at 41.5 or 42 at a lot of offshore books on the web.
The names of notable players for the Bengals that are listed as questionable keeps getting bigger each week, especially on offense. Their top two options in the passing game, A.J. Green (hamstring) and Tyler Eifert (back) are both listed as probable and running back Jeremy Hill (knee) is listed as questionable. If any of those players listed do succumb to their injuries and sit out, it will restrict the ability of the Bengals to move the ball on offense against what has become the Texans best defensive unit in recent years, despite playing without JJ Watt all season long.
Savage may also get the benefit of playing the Bengals without linebacker Vontaze Burfict lining up across from him when he steps under center, since Burfict is in the NFL’s concussion protocol and may not be cleared in time to play on Saturday. One of the reasons Savage was so successful in relief of Osweiler last week was because he made a point to throw the ball to the Texans most dangerous outside weapon DeAndre Hopkins (17 targets, 8 rec.), something I’m sure was brought up in meetings and game planning this week and that will need to be repeated if they hope to stay ahead of the pack in the AFC South.
Interestingly enough, the last two times these two have met in late November games, home field has mattered little and hasn’t provided much advantage. Last season the Texans went up to Cincinnati and dropped the Bengals, 10-6, as 10-point underdogs. The year before in 2014, the Bengals came down to Houston and defeated the Texans on their home field, 22-13, as 3-point underdogs on the road. But historically, the Texans have been a nemesis to the Bengals, winning five straight games against them from 2008 through 2013 including three of those games inside NRG Stadium. The Bengals have been a lousy wager against the Texans over the years too, going 1-7 ATS against them in the last eight meetings.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m not saying its easy to be the second string QB in the NFL, but there’s certainly tons more pressure when you’re named the starter and have to prepare with the weight of the world on your shoulders all week. Savage will not look as comfortable this week as he did in relief last week, but the Texans should still be able to win at home against a Bengals team that is not only dinged up at multiple key positions, but one that has very little left to play for this season except for the tee-time on the golf course come January. Both teams will struggle, so I’m going with the under of 42 in this game.
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