Houston Texans (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS) vs. New England Patriots (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS)
NFL Week 3
Date/Time: Sunday September 24th 1:00 PM EST
Where: Gillette Stadium
by Mike M, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread:HOU +13 / NE -13
The Patriots and Texans meet on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in a battle of 1-1 teams coming off of much needed wins last week with both having lost their games of the season. New England holds a 8-1 all time series lead against Houston with their lone loss coming in the final week of the 2010 season when the Patriots had already clinched their seed in the playoffs and rested a majority of their starters.
The two teams have played each other three times over the past 21 months with the Patriots winning all three by a combined score of 88-22. They most recently met back in January in the AFC divisional playoff round with the Patriots winning and just covering the sixteen point spread with a 34-16 triumph. Despite not having JJ Watt in the lineup, and having former quarterback Brock Osweiller in the lineup, the game was a lot closer than the score portrays the results to have been, with Houston at one point trailing by just one possession in the fourth quarter. If not for a combination of errant throws and dropped passes by the offense they could have had a chance for the big upset, as the defense was able to stay in Bradys face for the most of the game, pressuring him eighteen times and forcing him into two interceptions while not allowing a completion percentage of over 50%.
Thankfully for Houston fans they should be able to expect JJ Watt to be part of the game on Sunday, though he was limited in practice this week due to a dislocated ring finger suffered in their game last week against the Bengals. Watt is far from the only player injured on either side, with both teams listing twelve players a piece on Wednesdays report of the hurt. The Texans can also expect to get back wide receiver Will Fuller for the first time this season, and the former Notre Dame wide receiver will be looking to make amends after dropping multiple passes in last years divisional playoff tilt including one that would have been an easy touchdown catch and been a huge momentum changer in the game. Arguably the last position you would want to have hurt going up against Tom Brady the Patriots would be your defensive backs, and unfortunately for Houston they have injuries to two cornerbacks that could have a big effect on the outcome on Sunday, with Kevin Johnson already ruled out for the next 4-6 weeks thanks to an MCL sprain in his left knee, and Jonathan Joseph limited in practice due to a shoulder injury.
Of all the weeks to be playing Brady with those injuries though, this might be the best one considering six of his skill position targets were part of the Patriots injury report on Wednesday, and thats not even including the already loss for the season of his favorite target and security blanket, Julian Edelman along with second year wideout Malcolm Mitchell who wont be back until week 10 at the earliest. Both tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Rex Burkhead were not able to practice to start the week, while receivers Danny Amendola (concussion), Phillip Dorsett (knee), Chris Hogan (knee) and special teams star Matthew Slater (hamstring). Fortunately they do expect to get Slaters fellow special teams star and former Olympian Nate Ebner back this week, but the big question remains as to when Gronk along with star linebacker Donta Hightower can overcome their current knee foes and get back on the field with both having monumental influence on the success on their side of the ball.
While injuries have kept some off the field, the lackluster play of Tom Savage at quarterback got him quickly removed as the leader at the position and instead Houston has turned to their first round pick in this years draft Deshaun Watson as their on field general. The rookie faces a steep test this weekend, as he will be going against Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who has gone 9-1 over his last ten games against rookie quarterbacks including an 8-0 mark at home. The return of the drop-laden Fuller at wide receiver should at least help take away some of the extra focus on their star wideout DeAndre Hopkins, while also giving the team a deep threat and hope for exploiting the Patriots defense similar to how the Chiefs did with Tyreek Hill in week one.
The main cog of their rushing attack will need to show marked improvement if they want to take the pressure of Watson and have a real chance against New England this weekend. Lamar Miller has been a near bust to start the season at running back, as anyone like myself who was dumb enough to have taken him in fantasy drafts this year can attest to, while averaging just 3.6 yards per carry and being held out of the endzone thus far. Last week rookie out of Texas Donta Forman was able to eat into some of his carries and total touches, and it will be interesting to see what sort of backfield strategy mix that Houston goes with on Sunday against a Patriots line that has seen standout play from lineman Deatrich Wise and Trey Flowers to begin the season.
New England has no such backfield issues, with Mike Gillislee taking over the LeGarrette Blount role of last few seasons and scoring all four of the teams rushing touchdowns thus far, while Super Bowl LI hero James White has continued to be just as effective as a receiver as a runner, which has been especially helpful considering the rash of injuries so far that has affected nearly all of Bradys targets. The one player they will look to and need to get more involved in the offense is free agent acquisition Brandin Cooks, who has caught just five of thirteen targets with no scores through two games, and now facing a banged up Texans defensive backfield seems almost due for a breakout game. A major key to the game will be how the Patriots handle that Texans front seven that was able to apply so much pressure on him during the divisional playoff game and is stacked full of talented players such as Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Benardrick McKinney and Kareem Jackson.
Going on the road, let alone against a team of New Englands caliber, hasnt been a welcome sign for the Texans in recent years. They have gone just 11-22 over their last 33 away games, with only one of those wins against a team that finished the season with a winning record. Since the beginning of 2015 every one of Houstons road losses have been by at least seven points with an average defeat margin of 16 points per game. Against the Patriots in Foxboro things have been even worse, having not only lost all five times but not having covered in any of those games either, losing by an average just under 24 points per.
The Patriots enter the game on Sunday as a 13 point favorite, and while some may be hesitant to lay that many points in an NFL game, New England has had great success of late in the same situation, having gone 6-0 against the spread in their last six games at home when favored by 13 or more. They have also beaten the number in their last seven straight after having won the previous week, while the Texans have had a near opposite ability in the same situation as they have gone just 0-5 in their last five games following a victory.
If the Patriots offensive line can do this week what they couldnt against the Texans last season or the Chiefs in week one and give Brady enough time to find his open targets, I would expect New England to win and win big this week. Whether they can do that remains to be seen, but with Belichick facing a rookie quarterback and Brady going up against a depleted secondary, I still would not hesitate in any way in backing the Patriots this week against the Texans, and fully expect them to get the win and cover on Sunday at home in Foxboro.
Mike Ms Pick to Cover the Point Spread: New England -13 - Bet this game for FREE by taking advantage of a 50% bonus up to $250 at one of the web’s oldest and most trusted betting sites: BOVADA