The now ‘traditional’ opening week Monday Night Football double header features some games that should be intriguing if not particularly significant. In the ‘nightcap’ we get to see how things will go for new head coach Vic Fangio in Denver with Joe Flacco under center. We’ll also see what Oakland will bring to the table after the resolution of the Antonio Brown fiasco. In the early game, the Houston Texans head to the ‘Big Easy’ to take on the wrecking crew (or ‘krewe‘ mabye?) that is the New Orleans Saints.
This game opened with the Saints a -7.5 favorite and has been bet down to as low as -6.5. Some of this could be the technical move of buying off of the ‘key number’ but there does appear to be some support for the Texans in this spot. They did a few good things in advance of the season including the pickup of All Pro left tackle Laremy Tunsil from Miami. The question becomes is he enough to upgrade the offensive line? That is essential this year after Deshaun Watson was sacked a ridiculous 62 times in 2018. Another concern is the defense which just won’t be as dynamic with the loss of pass rushing monster Jadeveon Clowney.
Houston is a team that we’ve circled to regress this season. They didn’t do enough to address their issues during the offseason for our taste. They also were the beneficiary of a number of ‘lucky bounces’ last season that likely won’t go their way in 2019. A big storyline of 2018 was the Texans turnaround–they started the season 0-3 and then won 9 straight and 11 of 13. The reality is that the ‘turnaround’ had do more to variance–‘luck’ if you prefer–than any type of genius coaching move or personnel change. The Texans did well in some important statistical areas that are considered to be a ‘coin flip’ by mathematicians. These include turnover ratio, lost fumbles and even performance in close games. During the Texans 9 game winning streak they had 5 single digit wins, 4 wins by 3 or less and 2 OT victories. They also had a +13 turnover differential. From a statistical perspective, the team is likely to ‘regress to the mean’ this year. A repeat of their form re: turnovers and close game performance is unlikely.
New Orleans might be the most balanced and talented team in the NFL. The loss of Clowney (and pass coverage specialists Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson) play into Drew Brees’ hands perfectly. Houston has a great young quarterback in Deshaun Watson but needs more protection after spending 2018 running for his life behind a horrible offensive line. The team focused on improving the OL in the draft but the efficacy of that remains to be seen. The pickup of Tunsil helps but he can’t do it alone.
One bright spot for Houston from an ATS standpoint in 2018 was their 3-1 record as a road dog though they were just 8-8-1 ATS overall. New Orleans has failed to cover their last five opening game and are on a 9-10 ATS run at the Super Dome. This has been their best situation at home, however, as they are 6-2 ATS as a home favorite of 3.5 to 7 points. New Orleans is a legit Super Bowl contender while the Texans could prove to be badly overrated.