The Houston Texans host the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, January 7th to kick off wild card weekend in the NFL. This is a rematch from an earlier showdown in Mexico City this season in which the Raiders came on late to win 27-20 as 6.5-point favorites.
Oakland (12-4) blew a golden opportunity to clinch a first-round bye with a 6-24 road loss to the Denver Broncos last week. The Raiders now have to go on the road in the wild card round instead of getting a free win with the bye and hosting in the divisional round.
Houston (9-7) won the AFC South for a second consecutive season. The Texans clinched the division with a 12-10 win over the Bengals two weeks ago. As a result, they weren’t all that interested last week in a 17-24 road loss to the Tennessee Titans in the season finale.
Kickoff inside NRG Stadium is set for 4:35 EST Saturday afternoon with ESPN providing the television coverage. Taking a look at the NFL odds, I find Houston as a 3.5-point favorite over Oakland with a total set of 36.5 points.
The Houston Texans won the worst division in the NFL in the AFC South for a second consecutive season. Now they are getting some big-time line respect from the books in the wild card round, and I don’t think it’s warranted. I believe there to be some value here with the Raiders as 3.5-point underdogs.
Just think back to the regular season meeting when the Raiders were 6.5-point favorites over the Texans in Mexico City and won 27-20. There has been a 10-point adjustment since that night in terms of the point spread, and that fact alone shows that there is value with the Raiders.
Of course, I realize Derek Carr is now out for the season, so that makes a difference. But I don’t think it is worth as much as oddsmakers are adjusting for. And it’s not like the quarterback situation in Oakland with either Matt McGloin or Connor Cook starting is that much worse off than the one in Houston.
The Texans are giving Brock Osweiler the start. He was benched in the Jacksonville game in Week 15 in favor of Tom Savage. Savage led them to a comeback 21-20 win, and then a 12-10 win over Cincinnati in Week 16 that clinched the division. Savage started against the Titans in Week 17, but was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
Teams that played the tougher schedule have gone 40-16 SU & 40-15-1 ATS in the wild card round in the last 14 seasons.
It’s well documented that Osweiler has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL this season. He is completing just 59 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions while averaging a measly 5.8 yards per attempt. He’s the reason the Texans rank just 29th in total offense at 314.7 yards per game, and 29th in passing offense at 198.5 yards per game.
I think that bad showing against the Broncos on the road has the Raiders undervalued here. They were shell-shocked once McGloin got injured. But now they’ve got a full week to get ready. And this is a team that went 12-4 this season against the fourth-toughest schedule in the league. I think that is being discounted way too much here.
One of my favorite wild card round systems involves backing teams that played the tougher schedule in the Sagarin ratings. Teams that played the tougher schedule have gone 40-16 SU & 40-15-1 ATS in the wild card round in the last 14 seasons. The Raiders played the 4th-toughest schedule, while the Texans played the 18th. Teams with 10 or more SOS difference between them are 23-4 SU & 22-4-1 ATS, and this matchup fits that criteria.
The Raiders are 9-2 ATS in their last 11 road games. Oakland is 23-9 ATS in its last 32 games following an ATS loss. The Texans are 1-6 ATS in their last seven games overall. Houston is 1-5 ATS in its last six vs. a team with a winning record. Oakland is 8-1 ATS off a loss by 14 points or more over the last three seasons.