Saturday, August 24, 2013

NFL Preseason Predictions 2013: Saints vs Texans [UPDATED]

New Orleans Saints vs Houston Texans: HOU -2.5, O43.5 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

The Texans opened as -2.5 point favorites with a total of 43.5, and there hasn't been any movement on either. Given all the higher totals we're seeing, I'm a little surprised this one isn't a little higher. 59% of the current bets are on Houston.

Coaching/Motivation

Sean Payton said the starters will play a half - and maybe into the 3rd quarter depending on how the snap count is. Payton's record in the preseason hovers around .500.

Gary Kubiak has basically said the same thing for his starters. His record against the spread over the last 2+ years is 8-2. Overall he's 17-10-2 ATS. Much of his recent success can be credited to Wade Phillips though. Ever since he took over this defense, the Texans have enjoyed great balance on both sides of the ball.

Quarterbacks

There's not much to say about Drew Brees that people don't already know. He's capable of torching defenses regardless of how they defend him. This will be a stiff test for a Texans D that struggled against elite QB's in 2012.

Things get interesting after that though. Seneca Wallace has been released after his abysmal performance against the Raiders. This leaves Luke McCown as the backup for the second half. He had a really strong performance in Week 1, but I'm not gonna get too carried away with that. He hasn't thrown a TD pass in a meaningful game since 2007 and what does it say about him that they brought in Seneca Wallace in the first place?

Matt Schaub's challenges have been well documented. His troubles in the big game are a concern that will come to the forefront at some point, but this is only Week 3 of the preseason. He should be able to operate this offense without much trouble against a Saints defense going through a transition.

I really like the backup situation in Houston with both T.J. Yates and Casey Keenum having back-to-back strong games. They've provided some nice secondary scoring in the second half and I expect more production against iffy Saints backups in this one.

What to watch for ...

All indications are that Arian Foster will be ready for the regular season, but it's been a peculiar injury and something worth keeping an eye on. In his place Ben Tate will get the bulk of the carries with Deji Karim spelling him.

Antonio Smith and DeAndre Hopkins are notable guys missing for the Texans. Hopkins might hurt them more as Houson were hoping he'd provide a legitimate threat opposite of Andre Johnson.

The Saints have their own questions at WR as Colston made the trip, but isn't sure if he'll suit up. It would help Houston if he was on the bench, but Brees has a multitude of weapons at his disposal.

Most people are wondering who will step up and provide some pressure for this defense, and by early indications that person will be Cam Jordan.  Unless Rob Ryan unleashes an aggressive pressure package on Sunday, he's the one guy who could disrupt the backfield.

Beyond that are a lot of unknowns. The Saints linebackers are easily the biggest weakness and the secondary is coming off of a horrible season. So far they've faced the Chiefs and Raiders, so this game will be a much better barometer.

Speaking of pressure, if Houston do have any success sacking Brees look for it to come from his blindside. The LT spot is a big question mark and the Texans have an array of weapons to send his way.

Bottom Line


New Orleans are going to continue with some growing pains on defense as they adjust to Rob Ryan's new scheme, and there is still a lot to figure out on that side of the ball.

Kubiak has a lot of guys who are familiar with his system and they should be able to take advantage. And as much as I like the Texans defense, Drew Brees can put up points against anybody. I see a lot of points in this game.

NFL Picks: HOU -2.5, Over 43.5.