The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing their best football of the season just when it matters the least. They’ve won four straight games going 3-0-1 against the spread. They’ve apparently responded to a complete lack of pressure with the playoffs completely out of reach. They’ll put their winning streak on the line this Saturday afternoon as they host the Houston Texans.
The Texans are a talented team limited by poor coaching–something of a diametric opposite of the Bucs as they’re a bad team enabled by the solid coaching of Bruce Arians. Houston is 9-5 on the year and have a 1 game lead over the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South. The Texans and Titans will play in Houston to conclude the season but the outcome of the divisional race could be determined before that happens. Tennessee faces a tough challenge this weekend as they host the New Orleans Saints. If the Texans can take care of business here and the Saints beat the Titans the outcome of the final game of the year could be academic.
From a situational standpoint, there are valid reasons to fade each of these teams. As noted previously, Houston has plenty of talent–particularly at quarterback where DeShaun Watson is a beast. They’re held back by the pedestrian game calling ability of Bill O’Brien but despite the fact that Bruce Arians can coach circles around him the teams’ relative talent will determine the outcome in this one. It is admittedly tough to back the Texans when laying points. They’ve been a downright awful favorite not only this season (1-5 against the spread) but over the past three years where they’ve gone 8-14 against the number as chalk. They’ve had a tendency to finish the season poorly and are 3-7 SU/2-6 ATS in their last 8 December contests.
Tampa Bay has been a poor underdog this year and for the past three seasons. They’re 3-5 SU/ATS when getting points this season and are 7-23 SU/12-15-3 ATS over the past three years. They’re 0-4 ATS at home this year and 8-12 ATS in the ‘Cigar City’ during the past three seasons. They’ve got a shameful legacy against the AFC South going 6-13 SU/4-14 ATS against the spread. They’re 1-4 SU/ATS against opponents with winning records this season and 3-17 SU/7-11-2 ATS over the past three years. That’s the fundamental premise of this handicap–the Bucs are great against bottom feeders and have beaten the Lions, Jaguars, Colts and Falcons during their winning streak. Jameis Winston will be without his top two wide receivers this weekend and DeShaun Watson should be able to shred a mediocre at best Bucs’ defense.