Sunday Night Football: Defense makes Texans favorite over Colts

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Houston Texans linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus must be salivating at the thought of facing the Indianapolis Colts’ leaky offensive line in the Week 6 Sunday Night Football betting matchup.

The AFC South-leading Texans – in spite of a bleak recent history against their division rival – are favored by three points against the Colts at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Texans are 3-2 straight-up and against the spread, while the Colts are stumbling at 2-3 SU and ATS. Houston is 10-2 SU in their last 12 games against teams with losing records, according to the OddsShark NFL Database.

The Texans did not see Colts QB Andrew Luck in 2015, when they dethroned Indianapolis as the AFC South champion. Even though DE J.J. Watt is out for the season, the Texans’ pass rush poses problems for Luck, who has already been sacked an NFL-high 20 times and hit on another 40 passes, second-most in the league. Both Clowney and Mercilus are fearsome pass rushers. Houston is struggling in rush defense, but veteran Colts RB Frank Gore is not likely to burn them with an explosive run. Gore is more about consistent production.

Houston is 7-2 SU and ATS in their last nine home games. Texans CB Johnathan Joseph and CB Kareem Jackson will need to step up their play to contain Colts WR T.Y. Hilton, who averages more than 18 yards per reception against Houston. The Colts’ No. 2 receiver, WR Donte Moncrief (shoulder), will not play.

A main reason why the Colts are 6-1 SU and 5-1-1 ATS in the last seven editions of this matchup is Houston’s long-running struggle on offense. On that side of the ball, both the Colts’ D and Texans’ O are among the league’s worst units statistically. Quarterback Brock Osweiler and RB Lamar Miller were supposed to upgrade the offense, but neither has clicked in his new environment. Playing the Colts might provide the opportunity to break out.

The Colts’ Pro Bowl CB, Vontae Davis, will be tasked with trying to ensure the Texans continue to under-utilize WR DeAndre Hopkins, whose targets and catches are down significantly from last season. The Colts are depleted at cornerback with CB Darius Butler (hand) sidelined, so there might be opportunities for Hopkins’ counterparts, rugged Braxton Miller and speedy Will Fuller, to burn the Colts.

The Colts are 6-17-1 ATS in their last 24 games in Week 6 heading into this week’s matchup.

The total has gone under in eight of the Colts’ last 11 games against the Texans. The total has gone over in five of the Colts’ last six games against teams with winning records. The OVER/UNDER for the Sunday night matchup is up to 48.5 at online sports betting sites.

Marcus Mariota can’t even explain his historic touchdown catch

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A touchdown pass to … yourself?!

That’s exactly what happened to Titans QB Marcus Mariota in Tennessee’s incredible 22-21 Wild Card victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs were up 21-3 entering halftime and appeared to be well on their way to advancing to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, but then Mariota made history with one of the craziest plays you’ll ever see:

With the six-yard touchdown, Mariota became the first player in NFL history to record a passing and receiving TD in a playoff game.

NFL Wild Card Weekend betting lines reflect recent favorites trend

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Wild Card Weekend has been ruled by favored teams recently – on the field, if not on the board. Favored teams are 10-2 straight-up in wild card games over the last three seasons. At the sportsbooks – and this seems germane with the home teams each laying at least six points this weekend – favorites are a more modest 7-4-1 against the spread.

The 2017 playoffs saw home teams go 4-0 SU and ATS in wild card games. Eighteen of the last 28 wild card games have gone under the posted total, with one push.

The Kansas City Chiefs are listed as 9-point favorites against the Tennessee Titans with a 44-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in a Saturday matchup. The Chiefs are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven playoff games as a favorite, but QB Alex Smith has had a stronger second half of the season than Marcus Mariota, his Titans counterpart.

Tennessee, which is 5-1 ATS in its last six games against the Chiefs, could be compromised offensively if DeMarco Murray (knee) is unable to play and spell off team rushing leader Derrick Henry. The total has gone over in five of the Titans’ last seven games against the Chiefs.

The Los Angeles Rams are 6.5-point betting favorites against the Atlanta Falcons with a 48.5-point total in the late Saturday matchup. The Rams and first-time playoff QB Jared Goff are just 3-8 ATS in their last 11 home games. However, Los Angeles, which lost its regular-season finale against the San Francisco 49ers, is 5-0 SU in its last five games after a loss.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan, whose team is 10-3 ATS in its last 13 night games, will not have his optimal offensive line in front of him as LG Andy Levitre (triceps) is out for the season. The Rams defense, led by DT Aaron Donald, has the third-highest tally of interceptions. The total has gone under in the Falcons’ last five games.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are nine-point betting favorites against the Buffalo Bills with a 39.5-point total in a Sunday matchup between teams that had a combined 26-year playoff drought (since 1999 for the Bills; 2007 for the Jags). The visiting team is 5-1 ATS in the last six games of this matchup, but Buffalo will likely only stand a chance if RB LeSean McCoy (ankle sprain) is healthy enough to play; there is no way he will be 100 percent.

The Jaguars, who are only 4-13 SU in their last 17 home games against teams with winning records, must hope QB Blake Bortles has some recent regression out of his system. The total has gone over in the Bills’ last five games against the Jaguars.

And the New Orleans Saints are listed as seven-point favorites against the Carolina Panthers with a 48-point total in a late Sunday betting matchup. The Panthers and QB Cam Newton are 0-5-1 ATS in their last six tries against the NFC South rival Saints and also boast the NFL’s 28th-ranked passing attack while the Saints are fifth through the air (each team’s pass defense is right in the middle of the rankings).

New Orleans and veteran QB Drew Brees are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games against divisional opponents, as well as 5-0 SU in their last five home playoff games. The total has gone over in six of the Panthers’ last seven games against the Saints. The total has also gone over in five of the Saints’ last six games in the wild card round.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.