AFC Divisional Playoff
Pick with Analysis
The New England Patriots host the Houston Texans in the final divisional round playoff Game of the weekend. The Patriots are currently -9.5 point favorites at 5 Dimes Sportsbook with a total of 47.5. The betting trends at the world largest sportsbook, sportsbook.ag, show 73% of the action thus far as been on the Patriots and 76% has been on the over.
It’s doubtful that all of the home favorites are going to win this week, let alone cover. But which of the visiting dogs is going to pull the upset? Will it be the Ravens in Denver? The Packers in San Fran? Seattle in Atlanta? Or will the Texans pull the biggest shocker of all and upset the Pats? Certainly the Packers and Seahawks would be leading upset candidates this weekend and it really wouldn’t surprise anyone if they won. But the Texans?
If we break it down by the numbers, the Patriots are a slam dunk to win and cover. Using season to date stats, we’d make the number -10 which is right in line with the current line. If we look at the stretch run, the last 6 Games, it comes up all Pats. No surprise there. The Pats simply win in the 2nd half of the season. Belichick is 45-7 in December as head coach of the Patriots. When you combine that with the Texans slide this year, it should be no surprise that in the last 6 Games the Patriots yards per point differential is 12 points better than the Texans and that’s before adjusting for home field advantage. The Texans numbers resemble those of a last place team with an 18.8 on offense and a 13.9 on defense. Very poor.
But what we have to remember here, is that the differeNCe between the NFL elite and the bottom dwellers is very small in the. With the exception of say, a team like the Chiefs this year, take most teams in the bottom half of the NFL and play them against a team in the top 5 and that team in the bottom half, unlike in college ball, can win. They may not win more than oNCe every 5 tries or so, but they can win. That’s important to note here because the Texans are NOT in the bottom half.
Let’s go back to December 10th, a 42-14 Patriots win. The Texans came into Foxboro as -5.5 point underdogs. They were 11-1 overall and 6-1 on the road, facing a Patriot team that was 9-3, 5-1 at home. Plenty of handicappers, iNCluding yours truly, felt the Texans would come in and rise to the occasion under the Monday Night lights. At the time, heading into that Game, all of the numbers we like to use pointed towards a field goal Game. Somewhere between then and now, this Game turned into a mismatch.
What happened to the Texans? Well, heading into that Game, the Texans had already cliNChed a Wild Card birth. When a team knows it’s already in, it can have a neGAtive impact on the team mentally. That sense of urgeNCy is gone. The season isn’t on the line. It happens to teams year after year. I think in this spot, the Texans may not be that 11-1 team, but they also may not be the same team that faltered down the stretch. They are, perhaps, somewhere between those two extremes which would give them a good shot at keeping this Game competitive and then, who knows, dare to dream.
It’s not as if we have no precedent here. Teams that lost regular season meetings by 28 points or more and then faced that team in the playoffs are 11-11 in those playoff Games and those losers of the first Game have won 3 of the last 5 times. These Patriots were involved in one of those Games. In 2010 they beat the Jets 45-3 in the regular season only to lose to them in the playoffs, at home. Let’s also not forget what the Ravens did to the unbeatable Belichick and Brady a few years back in Foxboro in the playoffs. That Game was over in the 1st quarter. So, the unlikely result may be more likely than we think.
The Cardinals beat the Patriots in Foxboro this year. The Jets came within 3, at Foxboro this year and the Bills came within 6, again, at Foxboro this year. On the road for the Pats, the pathetic Jags (no home field advantage) and the Dolphins both came within a TD. Now, does anyone think any of those teams are better than the Texans? The Texans went on the road and beat Peyton Manning and the Broncos this year and the blew the doors off the Ravens 43-13 at home.
The 1st quarter of this Game will go a long ways towards deciding the outcome. Last time around, it was 21-0 with 11 minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter. Any Game plan that the Texans had coming into that Game, which likely includeda heavy dose of Arian Foster, had to be tossed. The Texans went to the air and the Pats knew they would. We all know what happened. It’s not as if the Pats stopped Foster. He had just 15 carries and 46 yards. You can’t play catch up by running the ball. against the Bengals last week Foster carried the ball 32 times for 140 yards.
The Texans can make this interesting by getting the running Game going. They can get the running Game going by hitting a couple of big pass plays early in this Game. That will keep the Pats defense honest and we’ll then have a Game on Our hands. The Patriots rank 29th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, so it’s not as if this isn’t a very real possibility. In fact, if you look across the board, these two teams are pretty close in many stat categories. Both are top 10 running the ball. Both are top 11 in the passing Game. Both are top 10 against the run. Now, the Pats 29th ranked pass defense is partly due to their having such big leads in Games, and we are mindful of that. But there lies the Texans chance.
The bottom line for us in here is that we think you’re going to see the 11-1 Texans show up here, not the team that stumbled down the stretch. The talent is there to make this one of the more exciting Games of the weekend. We wouldn’t be shocked to see the Pats win and cover, but we would be shocked to see another 42-14 Game. By the same token we wouldn’t be shocked to see the Texans pull the upset and certainly wouldn’t be shocked to see the Texans cover. The under 47.5 may be worth a look here as well. If the Texans are able to get their Game going, they are going to keep Brady and company off the field as much as possible. Their best shot is a low scoring affair.
We’re going to want +10 with the Texans. Currently that would be +10 -125 at 5 Dimes, so watch the board. Patriot money is bound to make that price a little cheaper before kick off. In the mean time, we’ll put this play out at -125 as the most we’d lay. Texans +10 -125 and Under 47.5