Week 16 of the NFL seasons will get started on a Saturday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing host to the Houston Texans. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Saturday, December 21 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The game will be broadcast on the NFL Network.
Current betting odds list the Texans as 2.5-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 51 points. Click here to take a look at all of the Week 16 betting odds.
One week after a puzzling and disappointing home loss to the Broncos, the Texans bounced back in a big way, knocking off the Titans on the road 24-21. The two teams entered the game tied for the top spot in the AFC South, so the win puts the Texans in the driver’s seat for winning the division for the fourth time in the last five years. With the win, Houston is yet to lose back-to-back games this season.
With a win on Saturday, the Texans can officially clinch the AFC South crown and book their ticket to the postseason. They can also clinch the division if the Titans lose to the Saints on Sunday. In the event that Houston loses and Tennessee wins this week, the two teams will meet again in Week 17 with the division on the line. The Texans also have a slim chance of earning a first-round bye if they can win their final two games, but it would take a lot of outside help.
As for the Bucs, they continue to be one of the hottest teams in the NFL. With a 38-17 road win over the Lions last week, Tampa Bay has now won four straight games and five of their last six games during the second half of the season. Of course, none of the teams the Bucs have beaten during that stretch have a winning record, so it’s not the most convincing winning streak.
Nevertheless, the Bucs have improved to a respectable 7-7 on the year, likely securing second place in a weak NFC South. While it has come a little too late in 2019, Bruce Arians appears to be turning things around in Tampa Bay, potentially making them a team to watch in 2020 and a difficult opponent for a Houston team still playing meaningful games.
Even with four straight wins, I’m not sure I’m ready to go all-in on Tampa and take them against a winning team that that’s probably going to the playoffs. I have no doubt that the Buccaneers will make things difficult on Houston. However, Tampa is 2-4 at home and has just one win this year against a winning team. The Bucs are very much a flawed team, and I think the Texans can expose those flaws well enough to cover 2.5 points.
Obviously, Tampa’s passing attack behind Jameis Winston poses a huge threat to the Texans. Houston’s defense is a little vulnerable to the pass these days, especially with J.J. Watt sidelined for the season. Even in last week’s win, the Texans gave up close to 300 yards through the air. That was a week after rookie Drew Lock picked them apart for over 300 yards and three touchdowns.
However, we all know that Winston is a turnover waiting to happen. During the team’s four-game winning streak, he’s still managed to throw six interceptions. He’s been able to overcome those mistakes because the Bucs have been playing weak teams. But I’m not sure Tampa will be as fortunate against the Texans if Winston can’t take care of the ball. The Bucs are also missing Mike Evans and could also be without leading receiver Chris Godwin after he suffered an injury last week. To be fair, Tampa still has some good options in the passing game. However, with a lackluster rushing attack, the Tampa offense won’t be the same if both Godwin and Evans are MIA.
On the other side of the ball, the Tampa pass defense is a huge problem for the Bucs, even if they’ve been excellent against the run this year. For what it’s worth, the Buccaneers have been a little better in recent weeks. But we have to remember that they faced David Blough last week and the Jacksonville tandem of Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew a few weeks ago. Also, Jacoby Brissett and Indy’s no-name group of receivers did plenty of damage against the Tampa defense two weeks ago.
It’s hard to envision the Tampa defense being able to contain Deshaun Watson and company. The Texans have three legitimate downfield threats with DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Kenny Stills. The Bucs, to their credit, have a pass rush that could bother Watson, as Shaq Barrett has racked up 16.5 sacks this year. But they can’t get to him on every play, which will leave the Tampa secondary exposed far too often.
For what it’s worth, I think this will be a close game. In fact, I wouldn’t completely rule out the Buccaneers pulling off a win. However, it’s hard to trust Winston to avoid mistakes and make game-winning plays against a quality team. Houston will be able to punish the Bucs for any turnovers better than the teams they’ve played in recent weeks. Ultimately, that should allow the Texans to win by at least a field goal.