Lamar Miller

Steelers are road favorites against Texans on Christmas

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On top of missing wide receiver extraordinaire Antonio Brown, the Pittsburgh Steelers also take a dubious track record as a big favorite into their game against the Houston Texans on Christmas Day.

The Steelers are a nine-point road favorite (after opening as 10.5-point chalk) against the host Texans with a 45.5-point total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com for their NFL Week 16 Monday matchup.

The OddsShark NFL Database states that since 2004, when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a rookie, Pittsburgh is 5-14 against the spread when favored by 7.5 or more points on the road. The Steelers, however, are 5-0 straight-up in their last five games on a Monday, while the Texans are 0-6 SU in their last six games as an underdog.

The Steelers, who are 11-3 SU and 6-8 ATS, were having enough trouble scoring points on the road when they had Brown, the 1,500-yard receiver. By the same token, Roethlisberger has other reliable receiving complements such as WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Martavis Bryant and TE Jesse James, who are facing a Texans pass defense that is next-to-last in the NFL in yards per pass (8.2) and touchdown passes (27) allowed.

Despite all their injuries this season, the Texans have played the run well, so it might not be smooth sailing for RB Le’Veon Bell.

The Texans, who are 4-10 SU and 7-7 ATS, are reduced to starting third-string QB T.J. Yates behind an offensive line that has lost three starters since the outset of the season. Yates has completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, while the makeshift O-line will have to stop Steelers DE Cameron Heyward.

Pittsburgh, which is 3-1 SU and ATS in its last four games against Houston, has been leaky against both the pass and the run lately, though. On the former count, CB Joe Haden is expected to play and help cover WR DeAndre Hopkins.

In the rushing phase, the Texans are reliable but unspectacular with veteran RB Lamar Miller. The success of Miller and the short passing game could help the Texans, who are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 late-afternoon starts, manufacture some time-consuming drives that keep the Steelers offense off the field.

The total has gone under in each of the Steelers’ last seven road games as a favorite of 7.5 or more points. The total has gone under in five of the Steelers’ last seven games in Week 16. The total has gone under in six of the Texans’ last seven games in Week 16.

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.

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.