NFL gamblers have seemed a little wary of marquee favorites in Week 13. The L.A. Rams are not a popular pick against the underdog Arizona Cardinals, the Green Bay Packers’ point spread is tightening vs the New York Giants…and Pittsburgh opened as a field-goal favorite at Heinz Field only for high-rollers to flock to the visiting Cleveland Browns.
There are exceptions to the rule of course – Philadelphia is a popular pick to win and cover at Miami – but not for Sunday Night Football between Houston and visiting New England.
Teams have been covering against New England if not winning straight-up – the Brady Bunch is 7-4 ATS in 2019 but has won its last 2 games by a combined 11 points. Perhaps that trend has swayed bettors to pick the Texans in Sunday night’s contest, but the Texans are shrinking on the moneyline (+175) in addition to a narrow (+3) point spread.
Who: New England Patriots at Houston Texans
When: Sunday, December 1st, 8:20 PM EST
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Lines: NE (-3) at HOU (+3) / O/U Total: (46.5)
We’re covering a lot of postseason hopes in the NFL and FBS these days, but forget any old playoff spot – the Patriots and Texans each have designs on division titles. New England is trying to stay 2 games ahead of the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East, and Houston is trying to reign supreme in the AFC South. The Texans are currently 1 game ahead of the 6-5 Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts, who will square off on Sunday, meaning 1 of the pursuing clubs has to lose (unless there’s a 75-minute tie).
New England and Houston have each won 3 out of 4, underscoring Baltimore’s dominance in late autumn has the Texans and Pats have each been defeated handily by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in that stretch. New England has since bounced back, winning 2 straight with an improved defensive effort.
The Patriots defeated the Eagles in Philly 17-10 in Week 11 and were able to keep the #1 offense in the NFL out of the end zone in last week’s 13-9 win against the Cowboys. Bill Belichick is known for putting together terrific teams, but his defense is also putting up landmark numbers.
The New England secondary boasts 2 of the NFL’s best in CB Stephon Gilmore and S Devin McCourty, and the pair have combined for 9 of New England’s 20 interceptions this season. McCourty’s 5 has him tied for the NFL league lead with Minkah Fitzpatrick, while Gilmore has 4 despite opposing QB’s rarely throwing the ball anywhere near him. Even more impressive, the Patriots #1 ranked defense is allowing just over 10 points per game.
Houston is considered a tough opponent at home, however, as the Texans boast a 4-1 W/L record as hosts. Bill O’Brien’s club took its beating at the hands of the Ravens 2 weeks ago but was able to bounce back against the Colts last week to move to the top of the division. After being harassed all day by John Harbaugh’s defense in the 41-7 loss at Baltimore, Deshaun Watson got a key weapon back in the form of WR Will Fuller V, and the pair was instrumental in holding off Indy. Fuller was targeted 11 times, hauling in 7 passes for 140 yards, and was able to distract some defensive focus away from DeAndre Hopkins:
If Will Fuller V was rusty after missing three straight games with a hamstring injury, no one would ever know. The speedy wideout caught a team-high seven catches for 140 yards in Thursday night’s 20-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts. With the Texans playing on a short week, Fuller was unable to fully test his hamstring since the team held only walkthroughs and not a full practice heading into the Week 12 game against Indianapolis. Fuller said he had been hoping to return to the lineup three weeks ago when the Texans played the Jaguars in London. He continued to rehab and felt this was the week he could finally play again.
The fourth-year wide receiver averaged 20.0 yards per catch. Fuller’s 51-yard and 44-yard receptions in the third quarter were the first and second-longest plays of the game. The 51-yarder set up a Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal with 2:47 left in the third quarter.
Houston’s offense has been fairly-consistent, ranking 6th in the NFL in total yards per game with just over 400. A desperation replacement for the injured Lamar Miller turned out to be a great fit with the rejuvenation of Carlos Hyde, who is with his 4th club in 3 years. Hyde – a player nobody wanted in the offseason – is on his way to a 1000+ yard season behind a quality OL.
I can see the Texans trying to grind-out a win with ball control, taking advantage of Tom Brady’s lapsed timing and decreased mobility in his 40s. If the Pats offense can’t spend all night figuring out how to score, Houston should be able to hold New England to less than 25 points and have a decent shot to win in the 4th quarter.
The Under (46.5) is the highest-% pick on Sunday night.