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Friday, December 27, 2013

NFL Predictions 2013 Week 17: Texans vs Titans

Houston Texans vs Tennessee Titans: HOU +7 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Surprising, a lot of games have some kind of playoff implications on Sunday, but a game with some 'value' is this one.  The LVH look-ahead line had the Titans as -5 point favorites. It re-opened at -6.5 on Monday, and it got bet up to -7 almost immediately.

The thinking behind this line move is the assumption that the Texans have already packed it in and have no motivation to show up to this game.

As of today, betting is almost split, with 52% coming in on the home team.

Bottom Line

On paper, this point spread should be about -3.5. It is one of the biggest inflations on the board for Week 17, and in my opinion it's too much.  Now if the Texans do lay a complete egg on Sunday and display no desire to win whatsoever, this will be a bad pick. However, that's also assuming that the Titans are up to the challenge as well.

There's no doubt that the Texans have been terrible this year. They are only 3-12 ATS and they've lost to some pretty subpar teams. But a closer look reveals that they were in almost every game right up until the end of the game.

Meanwhile, the Titans have only won two games over the past 7 weeks and they came against the Jaguars and the Raiders. They won each game by 4 points.

We can't put a whole lot of stock into the advanced stats with these teams, but one thing that does stand out is the Titans level of play in the "make-or-break" moments over recent weeks. They were one of the better teams on third down this year, both offensively and defensively, but they are free-falling in both categories during December.  They already had a bad red zone defense, but they've gotten even worse down the stretch. For me, this isn't a sign of a team that is going to blow out their opponent in the final week of the season.

It's still unclear who will play QB for the Texans. Keenum will get the start if his thumb is ok, but we might even see T.J. Yates. In the end, it won't really matter since all three QBs have played below-average ball this year. They'll also be without their three starting RBs, but that's another area where they've underachieved in 2013. The good news is they still have an excellent receiving corp, which is always beneficial in a pass-heavy league.

On the other side, Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't any better. He's also a below-average QB who is trying to close out the year with an underachieving team. The one category that they do thrive in, the running game, is something the Texans defense can stop.  Despite all the problems for Houston this year, run defense hasn't been one of them.

In the end, the Texans aren't a team that anybody wants to get involved with right now, especially with their 1-6 road record, but the Titans aren't a team that is inspiring confidence either, and their home record sits at a pitiful 2-5.  I'll take the points and hope this game is as close as it looks like on paper.

NFL Pick: HOU +7.
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