After getting a SNF clash between two playoff bound NFC teams a week ago – a game I was clearly on the wrong side of – this week’s SNF contest looks to showcase two teams from the AFC that are looking to make the playoffs as well.
The New England Patriots and Houston Texans have started to form a bit of a rivalry with one another having played five times since December 2015, but the rivalry is all one-sided as New England’s gone 5-0 straight up (SU) and 4-1 against the spread (ATS) in those contests. Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson just hasn’t been able to find success against this Patriots defense, and given that this year’s version of that crew in New England is arguably the best of the bunch, Wastson and the Texans will be in tough yet again.
The good news for Houston this time around is the fact that they get to be at home for the first time since that game in December 2015, as it will be Watson’s first career home start vs New England. Whether or not that helps the Texans get over the hump in this matchup remains to be seen, but having some extended rest for this game after playing last Thursday doesn’t hurt either.
So will extra time to prepare and more friendly surroundings be enough to negate the coaching mismatch that is Bill O’Brien vs Bill Belichick for Houston, or will the Patriots continue to do what they do and get their annual victory over Houston?
A controlled climate setting like the one in Houston brings ideal conditions to the game – something New England won’t mind after last week’s outing – and that’s always a plus for points. And while Deshaun Watson hasn’t beaten the Patriots in his career, I do expect to see Houston “borrow” a few of the schemes and play calls that Baltimore used against this Pats defense with Lamar Jackson, as Watson’s got a similar skill set. Baltimore hung 37 on New England that day – they hung 41 on this Houston team too – and while the Texans aren’t likely to get that high of a point total on the Patriots, getting 24 or so from Houston isn’t a big stretch.
The Patriots will be able to get theirs too against a Texans defense that’s been picked apart at times this year, as they can never seem to follow one strong performance up with another one. Houston’s allowed less then 20 points against three times in their last eight games, and after the previous two they responded with efforts of giving up 32 and 41 points respectively. Belichick and company have a great idea of what to expect to see from Houston having faced them annually for the past few years, and that should lead to success on there end as well. New England has put up at least 27 points in all five of the meetings with Houston since that December 2015 game, and they should be able to do something similar this week.
The point-spread for this game is very interesting as you can lay -3 with juice on New England or take +3.5 with juice on the Texans. No matter what side you like I would suggest you do pay the juice to get the best of the number, because you just never know how critical that nasty little hook may be.
A New England primetime game lined in this range is always going to see plenty of love for the Patriots, and given their recent history of beating up on Houston in these matchups, going against the Patriots is a hard sell this week. If that’s what you are looking to do, I’m sure the extra rest and home field for the Texans are playing a big part in your decision to back the Texans, and it’s hard to fault that either. Home field and extra rest are about as good as it gets from a situational standpoint for any NFL team, and Houston’s got that all working for them this week.
However, the coaching mismatch that is Bill O’Brien versus Bill Belichick is a decisive one that favors the Pats, and I’m not sure I can go against that scenario this week. Even if the Patriots are essentially spotting Houston a point or two for the benefit of being at home with rest, Belichick and his staff can coach circles around most teams in the league, and they’ve proved it on a yearly basis against this Houston crew. If I’m expecting the Texans to borrow a few plays from the Ravens, you know Belichick and the Pats are as well, as they probably went to work on counters and answers for Baltimore’s attack the day after getting their asses handed to them by the Ravens.