NFL Predictions: Texans at Saints Picks, Betting Odds

Doc MosemanCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2011

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 18:  Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub #8 scrambles for yardage during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on September 18, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

For several years in a row I have been tempted to believe in the Texans heading into the season. They have lots of talent and always seem on the verge of a breakthrough. That breakthrough, of course, has never come.

Well, we’re about to play the third week of games, and it still seems like this could be the year for the Texans. They have looked good, they are confident and they have a division  they could very easily dominate this year.

With all due respect to Indianapolis and Miami, though, they haven’t really been tested yet this year. They are about to be tested now.

The Saints looked decent in a loss in the opener, and really good last week. The Texans’ season will not be made or lost this week regardless of how it turns out, but we’ll have a much better sense of what they are capable of and whether this might finally be the year they get things figured out.


Texans at Saints Betting Storylines

This is not the first time the Texans have jumped out to a 2-0 start. Last year they did the same thing, only to lose six of their next eight to throw the season away. They wound up a pathetic 6-10.

The culprit for that collapse is obvious: They were as bad defensively as it is possible for an NFL team to be. This year they have taken major steps to address those shortcomings. Most significantly, they brought in Wade Phillips—and his 3-4 defense—to take over as defensive coordinator.

He has played against one terrible offense and one inconsistent one, but the early results have been very promising. Last year the Texans surrendered 376.9 yards per game. This year they have allowed just 271 yards per game. There were 31 teams last year that allowed more yards per game than that, and no team has done better than the Texans this season defensively.

Most impressively, a team that was truly terrible against the pass last year—the worst in the league—has been the best so far. Drew Brees is a big step up from Kerry Collins and Chad Henne, but Houston’s biggest weakness is not nearly as much of a weakness anymore. Or at least that’s what we have been led to believe so far.

While the Saints have had some issues and are just 1-1, there is no doubt they are solid on offense. They have averaged 32 points per game. Most impressively, the team is just so deep. Despite missing top receivers Lance Moore and Marques Colston, they still had eight different guys catch passes last week. Brees is a master and he is in form.

The run game—overhauled to feature Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles—has not been nearly as impressive, but there is little reason to panic on that front. In Chicago and Green Bay they have played two of the better run-stopping defenses out there.

Houston has only been average against the run, so New Orleans should be able to shine much more effectively this week and beyond.


Texans at Saints NFL Odds and Betting Trends

We have some interesting line movement here. The betting public clearly is not in love with the Texans—they are not believers. More than three-quarters of all bets have been placed on the Saints. You’d expect the line to be on the rise given that much lopsided action. In reality, though, the opposite has happened. It opened with New Orleans favored by 4.5, according to NFL odds, and that number has dropped to four.

When a line moves against heavy action like that it is a pretty clear sign that the smart money is not on the same side as the public. That means the smart money likes the Texans in this one.

The total opened at 52.5, and has only climbed slightly to 53.

New Orleans is 6-2 ATS in its last eight against teams with a winning record, and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games in September. The ‘over’ is 8-2 in Houston’s last 10 games on artificial surfaces.

These teams last met in 2007. Houston was favored by 1.5 and won by 13 in a game that went far ‘under’ the total.


NFL Picks: Texans at Saints Predictions

I might regret this, but I like the Texans here, especially as underdogs. Their defense will be tested, and that won’t always be entirely smooth. Still, their offense is very strong and they are going to be able to exploit the New Orleans secondary. I like their heart, and I expect them to be fired up for this one. It won’t be easy, but the Texans are going to keep this one close—and I give them a good chance of winning it outright.

Given the strength of both offenses and the potential vulnerability of both defenses, I lean towards the ‘over,’ though I am not too excited about it where it is set.


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