Brad Allen: Back the Texans to pull off a Christmas miracle

10 min

3-1 on picks for the blog last week, with the Rams taking care of the Seahawks and the over pretty much by themselves, while Jimmy G continued his merry romp through the league, covering by a half point against the Titans and moving to 3-0 as a starter.

Of course the bet I got wrong, went wrong in a big way, as the Texans lost by 38 to the Jags. Which means, of course, our first bet this week is the Houston Texans. They can be got around +10 @1.88 or +9.5 @2.04 at the time of writing, and both are value punts.

In fact, I make the true line around 7 or 7.5. The Steelers are in an awful scheduling spot.

They are coming off four primetime games in a row if you include last week’s AFC championship game preview with the Patriots, and it’s hard to keep getting up for games week after week this late in the season.

The lowly Texans with TJ Yates at quarterback are not going to get the juices flowing for the Steelers. In fact, Pittsburgh are well known for falling flat as big road favourites. Here’s a nice nugget from RJ Bell: “The Steelers are 6-5 SU since 2006 when favored on road by 9 or more, while the rest of the NFL is 66-10-1 straight up.

The Steelers are also 3-17 ATS as road favourites of 8 or more since 1990, although that trend has perhaps less relevance for us given the time frame.

Regardless, as noted last week, this Texans team is actually better with TJ Yates at QB than Tom Savage, by about a point, if calculated using adjusted yards per attempt. We are also getting some bonus points here because the Texans were obliterated last week – the look-ahead line for this one was around 7.5. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one come down to a field goal, so a double-digit headstart is a gift.

On the same note, I’ve backed the over 44 here. One of the overarching trends of this season has been the importance of the middle linebackers, or the so-called ‘quarterback of the defense’. The Cowboys and Panthers have both been strafed without their star middle linebackers respectively, and it has been the same for the Steelers without Ryan Shazier (#Shalieve) having given up 37 and 27 in the last two weeks.

What also helps this over is the pace the game will be played at. The Steelers average the fourth-most snaps in the league at 66.8, with even more over the last month (70.3), while the Texans are right behind them at 66.6, good for fifth most in the league.

The Texans defense is also allowing the second-most points per game (29.5) over the past month, thanks to a stout run defense that encourages opponents to pass on their abysmal back 7. More passing equals more explosive plays and more clock stoppages, which equals more points.

My other bet for Week 16 is also a primetime affair, as the Eagles host the Raiders. Now I’ve seen some analysts suggest this spread is overinflated for a backup quarterback against a decent opponent, but I actually think its a couple of points too short. For starters, this is almost the exact same spread as the Raiders/Cowboys game last week, if we assume the usual three points for home field (not that I support doing that, but I’m building a narrative here, so shh).

Nick Foles thus far has been more than an adequate replacement for the injured Carson Wentz.

In other words, this line suggests the Nick Foles-Eagles are the same as the Zeke-less Cowboys. And I don’t think that’s true. For starters, I don’t think the drop-off from Wentz to Foles is that big – four points per the YPA method mentioned earlier- and is arguably less in games where the Eagles will dominate everywhere else on the field like this one. Foles played well last week and crucially can run the exact same offense that made the Eagles so explosive this year.

Per Eagles film analyst Fran Duffy: “A lot was written a week ago about the types of throws Foles can (and more importantly, can’t) make, but I think he helped quieten some doubters in this game. I love that Doug Pederson called an RPO (run-pass option) on the very first play of the game, as Foles dished the ball out against a blitzing slot corner to kick things off for the offense. We also got to see Foles roll out of the pocket a bit in this game, both by design as well as by nature of the play, and make throws on the run both to the right and to the left. He’s clearly not Carson Wentz from a movement standpoint, but Foles can make all the throws necessary in this offense.”

Good enough for me. Elsewhere, the performance of the Eagles defense prompted some concern last week, but I think that’s easily written off by the fact it was their third road game in a row after a monster west coast trip with two games against playoff contenders.

They should bounce back this week, especially under the lights, and with the NFC’s number one seed on the line.

On the Raiders side, I’m much less certain what kind of effort we will see after their season was ended once and for all last week. They also lost stalwart left tackle Donald Penn for the season, prompting some reshuffling along the O-line, which is literally the last thing you want against the Eagles and their ferocious front four. Derek Carr already has a tendency to forgo deep shots for dink and dunk throws, and that will only get worse this week.

I could also go into just how mediocre the Raiders has been this year statistically, (18th by DVOA) but frankly, it would be overkill. This team is going to get obliterated on Sunday night.

Brad’s Week 16 Bets:

  • Texans +9.5
  • Over 44 points Steelers @ Texans
  • Eagles -9.5

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