Houston Texans vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pick 12/21/19
Houston Texans (9-5 SU, 7-7 ATS) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7 SU, 5-8-1 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Saturday, December 21, 2019 at 1PM EST
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Point Spread: HOU -3/TB +3 (BetAnySports - You only lay -105 on sides and totals here!)
Over/Under Total: 51
The Houston Texans make the trip to the Sunshine State for a Week 16 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday. Houston is coming off what might be their biggest win of the season, beating the Titans on the road on Sunday, 24-21, to take command of the AFC South. Now is no time to ease up the gas, but it won’t be easy. In coming to visit Tampa in a tricky out-of-context road matchup, they are going against a team that has turned things around lately. With four straight wins, including a lopsided 38-17 road-win over Detroit on Sunday, the Bucs have forged their way to .500 and look to be building something meaningful under first-year head coach Bruce Arians. Who can cover the number at Raymond James Stadium this week?
Tampa in Trouble?
On one hand, the team renaissance over the last handful of games has been spellbinding. The offense is in full-flight, while the defense has upgraded its play enough to let what the offense does well stick. Jameis Winston is an interception machine, something an opportunistic Houston defense could potentially exploit. But it’s a price the Bucs can afford to pay. With over 900 yards in the air and eight TDs, Winston has been prolific. Even before this 4-game winning streak, we were seeing some signs, as many of their losses were close. But in soldiering to a 7-7 mark, we see the offense really showing its fangs.
It’s just unclear if the Bucs will be able to maintain the same clip with their aerial-force decimated. Losing Mike Evans was one thing, but with Chris Godwin hurting his hamstring last week, it leaves them pretty thin. Not that they’re aren’t guys who can step up, but their next-best receiver hasn’t reached 300 yards this season, with tight end OJ Howard being the leading receiver left in the rotation. In addition, with Tampa’s recent success coming against the likes of Detroit, Indy, Jacksonville, and Atlanta, it perhaps painted an overly-flattering of the Bucs. It gets tougher on Saturday from an overall sense, but against a Houston defense that can de dodgy in all areas, this might not be the worst spot.
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How the Texans Match Up
The Houston secondary, a group that has been terrorized by the better aerial attacks it has faced this season, could be an issue. They catch a break with Tampa, now missing two guys who are still among the league leaders in receiving yardage. Still, they might not completely be off the hook against Winston in this road-setting. The Houston “D” performs with a pretty wide range, and it’s unclear if they can curtain even a compromised Tampa offense.
Offensively could be a different kettle of fish for the Texans, who wield a lot of things on a defense that typically troubles the Bucs. One is a varied passing attack with multiple weapons. In last Sunday’s road-triumph over Tennessee, the Texans got a good game from Carlos Hyde, who has been surprisingly effective. Tampa, however, isn’t an easy team to run on. The thought of Deshaun Watson slinging the ball to DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, and a large cast of role guys is somewhat-terrifying for a Tampa secondary that isn’t very good. The Bucs will really need to crank up the playmaking upside, and while they have some pass-rushing juice with Shaquil Barrett’s 16.5 sacks and have scored five touchdowns, it’s a part of the team that still needs a ton of work before Tampa can entertain the notion of being contenders.
Tough Spot For Houston?
With four road-wins this season, the Texans have been capable away from home. It’s a bit of a strange matchup, not so much regionally, but who even remembers Houston playing in Tampa? After being in Nashville last week, it’s an odd second part of a two-game road stretch. They obviously put a lot into getting that win last week, as the winner would assume control of the division. And they get the Titans again in their previous game at home. Sandwiched in the middle is this random matchup, and while there’s a lot to play for, it’s a spot where we could also see a less-than-vintage Texans bunch. Sure, the Bucs are a bit strapped at wide receiver. But Houston’s defense against the run hasn’t been too good lately, and between Ronald Jones and some other guys stepping up, it’s not hard to picture Tampa’s offense getting some things done.
The Fallacy of Urgency
At this time of the season, the tendency is to put a lot of emphasis on urgency. And not to dismiss it, but just betting on the team that needs it more, especially ATS, can be a dangerous road to travel in the last few weeks of a season. And sure, Houston isn’t going to pick now to take a week off. But the Buccaneers’ wherewithal needs to be accounted for too, and with a lot less to play for, they’ve managed to deliver solid efforts week after week. They’re not leaving any strings untied, they’re trying hard, and really going for it in close games as if the playoffs were on the line.
Take the Home Dog
The timing might seem wrong, amidst all the injuries for Tampa starting to accumulate. And the passing-offense is a massive part of what makes Tampa dangerous. I still see the streaking Bucs making it hard on Houston this week. Between still being able to move the ball a lot on offense along with the defense maybe notching a few big plays, along with a little special teams snafu, I see the Bucs covering the spread at home on Saturday. I’ll take Tampa.
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