Friday, August 17, 2012

San Fransisco 49ers vs Houston Texans: HOU -1.5 1st Half, UNDER 37 (5Dimes)

Coaches

Sometimes when we evaluate preseason coaching records we need to dig a little bit deeper to get an accurate picture. Gary Kubiak has a 14-11 SU record overall, but he has a winning record in each of the first three weeks.  It is week 4 that he tends to mail it in and go through the motions.  This held true again last season as he won each of his 1st three preseason games before a 28-0 drubbing in Week 4.

Kubiak also boasts a 18-8 overall record to the 'over', but most of this came before Wade Phillips took over on the defensive side of the ball.  Last year Houston went 1-1-2 on totals with the only over coming on a late 4th quarter TD drive led by TJ Yates.

Last season under new head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers finished 2-2 SU in the NFLX, but 0-3-1 to the 'under' on totals. The message is clear, defense is the name of the game with the 49ers.

Markets

This game opened with Houston -3 favorites and a total of 36.  News this week that Harbaugh is going to "open up the offense", along with the addition of Andre Johnson in the lineup might have been behind the line move to 37, but I'm not buying into it.  I'd be surprised if the total went past the key number of 37 so I'm going ahead and playing it now.

Quarterbacks

As mentioned, Harbaugh said he's going to "open up the offense" more this week, but what does that really mean?  The 49ers are severely challenged on that side of the ball and will need to rely heavily on the ground game to move the chains.  Alex Smith might be more comfortable under center and they might have added more speed at WR, but I think they have a long way to go before we can call this unit "efficient".  Frank Gore and Mario Manningham are expected to suit up, so that should definitely help Smith's cause.

This week Harbaugh told the media that his starters, "might play more in the team's second preseason game Saturday at Houston (No. 6), [but] he has already seen plenty from Smith on the field to be confident in his play-caller as his second training camp winds down."  Look for Colin Kaepernick to take over before the half is out. He looked improved over his 2011 debut, but he'll have a tough challenge against a deep and talented Texans defense.

Matt Schaub will have Andre Johnson back this week, but he isn't expected to stay with the starters the entire game. AJ could get a series or two before he's shut down for good.  Schaub didn't have to do anything special in Week 1 and he looked comfortable after coming back from his 2011 injury.  He'll have a tough test against a stout front seven on the 49ers defense, but he should have opportunities to put up some points against that secondary.  He'll also be thankful he won't have to face Aldon Smith on the pass rush thanks to a Week 1 hip injury.

There are big questions about the lack of WR depth on the Texans and it will continue to be a story-line throughout the season, but for now the coaching staff is happy with the development of their young guys.  Keep an eye on 4th round pick Keshawn Martin.

TJ Yates will come in and clean up after Schaub and he's looked like a different guy so far in 2012.  He gained valuable experience as a starter in 2011 and comes into this season with a far greater grasp on the offense.  

Defense, Defense, Defense

In this matchup it's obvious that both defenses are potentially top 10 units heading into 2012.  Nothing changed that expectation in Week 1 of the preseason as they completely smothered and annihilated the Vikings and Titans offenses respectively.

The 49ers are once again planning on playing all four of their QBs this week with Josh Johnson getting the 3rd string start instead of Scott Tolzien. That doesn't give any QB in particular to get into any kind of rhythm.

I also don't forsee TJ Yates or John Beck to explode with offense when they get the call either.  The 49ers are a well-coached team and they should be on point once again on Saturday night. 

Pick

Last year the Texans defense completely dominated this matchup in the first half limiting the 49ers to 50 net yards through two quarters. I don't expect it to be that bad for San Fran this time around, but it's hard to look past the potential for another dominating performance.

Schaub racked up over 200 yards with two touchdowns on route to a 21-0 halftime lead in that game.  Again, I don't think we'll see a repeat of that given the development of the 49ers defense, but they are much more equipped to put up points than the 49ers offense. 

I see this game playing out pretty much as expected - a defensive battle with the Houston offense in a better position to put up points in the first half.  Garbage points in the second half could become an issue just like any preseason game, but even that might not be enough when you look at the talent on both starting defensive crews.

NFL Pick: HOU -1.5 1st Half, UNDER 37

The rest of my Week 2 predictions are here, or you can find all my 2012 predictions on the home page main menu.