Line: I really had hoped for an overreaction to the Texans going 0-3 – I thought the books could open this line at Colts -3. They opened this Colts -1.5, early Indy money poured in to push it to -2.5 before Texans bettors came in on a bigger buyback down to +1 and now to pk on Saturday. It seems like the sharp money is seeing what I am seeing: an underperforming Texans team against an overperforming Colts squad. I’ve got the Texans slightly favored, by 0.5 points. Texans could be favorited by Sunday after the Colts injury reports.
Situation: Texans play their third road game in four weeks and Bill O’Brien should be on the hot seat.
Matchup: Andrew Luck cannot throw the ball deep, he just cannot. Not only did the Colts sub in Jacoby Brissett for the hail mary, but Luck also had three of his five worst “yards per completions” games this year. His zip is gone, he doesn’t possess the arm strength to hit comeback and out routes to the far side – he is far away from being 100%. His shoulder is still a big issue. To this point, he wasn’t forced into any shootouts where his arm strength could be exposed. He is also bad under pressure, plays on which you need to get the ball out quickly with power – he doesn’t have it right now.
The Texans pass rush is slightly coming alive, JJ Watt registered the first sacks since 2016. The Colts offensive line ranks bottom-five in pressure rate to begin the season and I believe Watt, Mercilus, Reader and Clowney will get the best of them. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo is still out as well as right tackle Joe Haeg. Haeg has been a liability to this point, but I don’t think Denzelle Good will do any better against Watt. The Colts will also be without starting tight end Jack Doyle. Eric Ebron can’t be trusted.
The Colts have been playing very conservatively, “bend but don’t break” on defense and small steps on offense which kept them in the games. But their defense – which I’m not sold on – has only been tested in the Bengals game when Dalton went downfield a couple of times. This will be different this week: Deshaun Watson is the most aggressive downfield passer, by nature, but also by numbers this season. He leads the league in air yards, even ahead of Fitzpatrick, Big Ben, and Patrick Mahomes. This week the Colts secondary who are without starting safety Clayton Geathers, will finally get tested by DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and rookie speedster Keke Coutee. I can see a breakout game for the Texans offense. I give the edge to Houston.
Bill O’Brien is plain stupid and he shouldn’t be the head coach anymore, but he is coaching for his job and we gotta believe that he is finally going to take limitations off Watson by designing more zone reads and play-action. He publicly talked about how bad his offensive line plays – which is true – and the only way to fix it is to mask it by play design. This is O’Brien’s game of the year, at 0-4 I could see him getting fired.
I expect the Texans to score which will force Luck to air it out where I don’t see them succeeding. The Texans are on a 0-8 run in close games which got to regress at some point, the coach is fighting for his job, the pass rush is getting stronger and their offense should really be successful against this Colts-secondary – Houston is going to take this one home.
The pick: Houston Texans ML +103 (Pinnacle, 09/28 03.10 PM EST)