Houston Texans (3-3 SU, 3-3 ATS) vs. Tennessee Titans (3-2 SU, 2-3 ATS), 1:00 p.m. EST, Week 7 NFL, Sunday, October 23, 2011, LP Field, Nashville, Tenn., TV: CBS
by Badger of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Hou +3/Ten -3
Over/Under Total: 44.5
The Houston Texans will try and stay on the winning side of .500 this Sunday when they travel to LP Field in Nashville to take on the surprising Tennessee Titans in a battle for early first-place bragging rights in the AFC South.
For the Texans this is an all too familiar sight, starting the regular season out hot only to watch their hopes for a division title and AFC playoff birth fade away quickly during the middle portion of the schedule. Already a loser in three of their last four games, including a tough 29-14 loss at Baltimore last weekend, the Texans cannot afford to fall further behind the Titans at this point of the season.
Yes, you did read that right. I did say fall behind the Titans further, because at 3-2 and with an impressive victory over the same Ravens team at home in LP Field a few weeks ago the Titans are one of the leagues most pleasant surprises of 2011.
Two weeks removed from a disheartening loss to Pittsburgh, 38-17, and a few days past their bye week for the season, the Titans must strike hard and fast and do it this week against the Texans if they hope to stay atop the AFC South standings. With two weeks to game plan, prepare and heal, a Titans win at home on Sunday could be pivotal in order to pull two full games ahead of the Texans in what has turned into a two-team race in the division.
The oddsmakers out in Las Vegas see this game as a fairly even matchup, setting the opening point spread with the Titans as the standard 3-point favorite at home. The number appears to be right on the money too, as it has yet to move in either direction after a few days of wagering at the window.
The over/under total opened at 43 or 43.5 depending on where you place your sports wagers, but almost every bookie has since moved the total up to its current mark of 44.5.
Offensively this game will showcase two veteran quarterbacks in Matt Schaub and Matt Hasselbeck, but two surprisingly different styles of offense to try and get the job done.
Now that the Texans have a healthy Arian Foster in the backfield, Schaub has been able to use play action more effectively. Houston averages 126.2 yards a game on the ground (7th in NFL) and even though receiver Andre Johnson is listed as doubtful with his hamstring, the Texans receiving crew is talented enough to turn plays into big yardage as the Texans are 8th in the league with over 381 yards of offense a game.
The problem for the Texans in recent weeks is that the yardage is not translating into points on the scoreboard. A few costly turnovers here and there has caused the offense to stub its toe and thus its 23.5 points per game average has dropped to 14th in the league.
One stat that is almost unbelievable is the fact that the Titans, with Chris Johnson signed and healthy, are ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per game with just a 66.6 yards per game average. Without a running game to set up play action, Hasselbeck has been forced to throw it more often and while the yardage has been strong (272.4 ypg 9th) the output on the scoreboard has not (21 ppg 20th).
What will be interesting to see is how much the Titans will rely on Johnson and the running game this week following the bye. If Johnsons holdout during training camp was the cause for the slow start on the ground for the Titans, then they should have things ironed out by this week against a Texans defense that is good against the run (107 ypg 13th) but missing a key player in Mario Williams.
Instead Hasselbeck and the Titans have relied heavily on their defense to win games for them, and they have not disappointed. Ranked 9th overall (326 ypg) and 6th in points allowed (18.8 ppg), the Titans are the prototypical bend but dont break scheme.
Last December the Titans defense shut down Foster and the Texans running game (17 carries for 30 yards) and the result was a, 31-17, victory for the Titans at LP Field. Houston did the same thing to the Titans a few months earlier in their matchup played at Reliant Stadium, shutting down Johnson and the Titans ground game (12 carries for 24 yards) in a 20-0 victory. So getting the running game going has been key for the winner in the series dating back to the 2008 season.
All told, the Titans hold a 7-3 SU advantage over the Texans on the scoreboard since 2006, but that advantage slips to even at 3-3 SU over the last three season with both teams splitting the head-to-head season series a game apiece since the 2008 campaign.
The same numbers hold true at the betting window too, with the Titans enjoying a 7-3 ATS mark for bettors over the 10 game history, but just a 2-3 ATS mark over the last five games head-to-head. In other words, the series used to be owned by Tennessee over the years but the Texans have made progress over the past few seasons.
The head-to-head betting trends also favor Tennessee, as the Titans are 4-1 ATS in their last five games at LP Field. The home team in general has enjoyed home cooking in this series overall, going 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings. Plus, the Texans have traditionally struggled on the road, going 1-5 ATS in the last six road trips and 0-4 ATS in their last four as the road underdog.
The over also has some strong trends in its favor. The over is 19-8 in Houstons last 27 games against an AFC South rival, the over is also 5-0 the last five times these two teams have played in Nashville (7-3 overall in L10). However, the Titans play defense against their AFC South rivals, as its actually the under that is 9-2 in their last 11 inter-divisional games.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Houston is reeling and really needs to get this win to keep their heads above water, but the Titans are coming off their bye week and will be ready to play. The Titans defense is underrated. The run game is back on track as well. Take Tennessee minus the points for what should be the easiest cover of the week.
Additional NFL Football Betting Previews