There may not have been a bigger train-wreck in the NFL last season than the Houston Texans. One year removed from meeting their potential and winning the AFC South Division title for the second consecutive season, the Texans went 2-14, fired head coach Gary Kubiak, found out that Matt Schaub is not the guy that they thought he was, and secured the first overall selection in the NFL Draft.
The season started on a promising note with home wins over San Diego and Tennessee, but that would be it for victories. Over the final 14 games, the Texans were outscored by 161 points and scored less than 10 points four times. Any season that includes two losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars has to be considered an unequivocal failure and that’s precisely what it was.
Sweeping changes took place in the offseason. Bill O’Brien was plucked from the college ranks to take over as head coach. He’ll serve as his own offensive coordinator. Romeo Crennel was tabbed to run the defense. Leading rusher Ben Tate signed a free agent deal with the Cleveland Browns. Beleaguered starting quarterback Matt Schaub signed with the Oakland Raiders.
Oddsmakers appear rather optimistic about the Houston Texans for the upcoming season. At the LVH Superbook, the Texans had a win total posted of 7.5 with -145 on the over. Sportsbook.ag opened the Texans win total at 7.5 with -155 on the over.
Lines courtesy of CG Technologies:
|3||@ New York Giants||+4|
|7||@ Pittsburgh (Mon)||+3.5|
The Texans draw the AFC North and NFC East as well as Oakland and Buffalo as part of their last-place schedule. Our own Cole Ryan rates the Texans schedule as the third-weakest. The Texans do wind up with three back-to-back road game scenarios and a stretch from Weeks Two through Eight of five road games out of seven contests.
Oddsmakers for CG Technologies seem to have a strong stance on the Texans. There are a lot of eye-opening lines in that list and some spots where it would be very difficult to see the Texans favored. The Texans are favored over the Colts at home on a Thursday night and are just a pick ‘em against the Eagles three weeks later. These lines should make you take an extra long look at the Texans and see what, exactly, you are missing.
Every line tells a story is something that Adam Burke and Cole Ryan like to adhere to on the Gridiron Gambling Report, BangTheBook.com’s NFL podcast, and these lines are telling quite a tale.
Why bet the over?
There is stability in Houston now with the hiring of Bill O’Brien and the appointment of Romeo Crennel as the defensive coordinator. That, alone, will be beneficial to the organization. O’Brien returns to the NFL after a stint at Penn State and Crennel returns to a role he’s most comfortable in. Crennel has been a terrible head coach, but has been moderately successful as a defensive coordinator. Lucky for him, he has a lot to work with in Houston.
The defense is the story for the Texans with Jadeveon Clowney and JJ Watt at defensive end. Two of the game’s most gifted pass rushers will make life difficult for the opposition. Both corners return with Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson, as do both safeties DJ Swearinger and Danieal Manning. Given how little help the defense got from the offense last season, this is a highly underrated group.
It would be a surprise to see the Texans enter the season with Case Keenum, TJ Yates, and Tom Savage on the quarterback depth chart, but since that’s all they’ve got right now, that’s what bettors have to go on. Keenum, the University of Houston product, has some weapons at his disposal with Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, and the return of Arian Foster. Garrett Graham supplanted Owen Daniels at the tight end position and caught 49 balls in 13 games.
O’Brien is a pass-happy offensive coordinator, so some of what he has in the playbook could mirror what Keenum had with the Houston Cougars, with a lot of quick throws and hot reads. Keenum could work out in a system like that, especially with the talent at his disposal.
The Texans got a lot stronger in the trenches with Clowney, second-round pick Xavier Su’a-Filo, and a 331-pound mountain of a man in third rounder Louis Nix. The Texans do have some vacancies on the defensive line to fill and look to be adding depth to strengthen the position.
Why bet the under?
Come on. A Case Keenum-led team go 9-7? The Texans should build a better team under the tutelage of Bill O’Brien and Romeo Crennnel, but Rome, as they said, was not built in a day. Keenum is a placeholder for whomever the Texans draft next year in the first round. There may be improvement, and there should be improvement, but seven wins worth of improvement? Child, please.
The Texans have to replace the interior of their defensive line, lost a starting linebacker, lost depth at linebacker, their starting running back, and one of their defensive ends. While the return of Arian Foster and the addition of Jadeveon Clowney fill two of those holes, depth is a major issue on defense. The Texans are making it a point of emphasis to get stronger at the line of scrimmage, but it takes time for those guys to develop.
Minus-20. That was the Texans’ turnover margin last season. They forced just 11 turnovers, lowest in the league by four. One could take a glass half full approach to that stat and point out that it would be hard for that to get worse with an improved pass rush and a system more conducive to Keenum’s ability. One could also look at that and wonder how it improves with the same personnel in the secondary.
Bill O’Brien comes with a lot of promise, but he has never been a NFL head coach. Working alongside Bill Belichick is an impressive bullet point on a resume, but results are another thing.
NFL Free Pick: Under 7.5 (+120)
The Texans are going to be better. There’s no question about that. Seven games better? Not buying it. Unless something strange happens at the quarterback position, this collection of quarterbacks would do well to lead the team to a .500 record. The schedule leaves the door open for a 9-7 season and O’Brien inherits quite a bit of talent. But the Eagles had the NFL’s largest turnaround last season and it was a six-game improvement. The Colts had a nine-game improvement in 2012, but that was with Andrew Luck. Other dramatic turnarounds were authored by Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Brees. Those guys don’t exist on the Texans roster.
They will build something here and will challenge the Colts, possibly as soon as next season. But for this year, 9-7 seems like a pipe dream.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.