Patriots Texans Sunday Night Preview

BOTH NEW ENGLAND AND HOUSTON NEED A WIN IN SUNDAY NIGHT "FLEX" GAME ON NBC

There's no marquee college action this weekend...so we're jumping right to our preview of a very important Sunday night NFL affair matching the New England Patriots (10-2) and the Houston Texans (6-6). NBC opted into that game rather than the previously scheduled Seattle/Baltimore matchup because it had larger appeal national appeal and both teams are in the playoff chase.

The Pats and Texans both need this one very badly. New England went from 10-0 to 10-2 in a finger snap, and is now in danger of losing out on one of the top two seeds in the AFC brackets and a bye week. Houston has risen back into the AFC South race...but has little margin for error if they don't win that weak division.

Look at what's facing the eventual runner-up in the AFC South...

AFC Wildcard Picture Entering Week 14
Kansas City 7-5 (6-2 in the AFC)
NY Jets 7-5 (5-4 in the AFC)
Pittsburgh 7-5 (4-4 in the AFC)
Buffalo 6-6 (6-5 in the AFC)
AFC South Runner-up 6-6 (4-4 in the AFC...for both Houston/Indy)
Oakland 5-7 (5-4 in the AFC)

Only two Wildcard spots are available. All three of Kansas City, the NY Jets, and Pittsburgh are performing at playoff caliber right now. That makes them hard to catch from behind. And, Houston just lost at Buffalo...the fourth team on that list! That's a tie-breaker against them should both they and the Bills rise up to challenge the big three. Good luck doing that after a loss to New England. You're just not going to win an AFC Wildcard this year from a 6-7 mark through 13 games.

Yes...Houston will remain alive for a shot at the divisional crown even if they lose. They visit Indianapolis next week before closing with weak sisters Tennessee and Jacksonville. Sunday night's game with the Pats is ironically a "must win" in the Wildcard race but a "can afford to lose" in the divisional race. The worst case scenario is that Houston goes all out vs. the Pats just to lose a heartbreaker...then has nothing left next week for the Colts!

A messy situation for handicappers to be sure. Let's see what Jim Hurley's key indicators stats are saying about must-see TV on NBC...

Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
New England: 10-2 (#21 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)
Houston: 6-6 (#20 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)

These teams have played very similar schedules in terms of raw quality...so the records and stats don't have to be adjusted. New England is a legitimate championship threat...though they might be only 9-3 against a league average schedule. Houston belongs in the Wildcard discussion, but isn't yet any sort of threat to be anything more than a spoiler in the playoffs.

Yards-Per-Play
New England: 6.0 on offense, 5.2 on defense
Houston: 5.0 on offense, 5.3 on defense

Wow...big difference here. Houston is NOT a playoff caliber team this year at -0.3 in differential vs. a subpar schedule. They really need to lift their game here to have a chance to pull the home upset. New England has dipped to a still stellar +0.8 after their two losses. Though, we all know the offense doesn't always shine when Rob Gronkowski is out or playing hurt. You should probably pencil in something close to 5.6 or 5.7 to represent the current reality.

Turnover Differential
New England: +5
Houston: -1

The Patriots historically get the best of this category. That's how you know turnovers aren't "random." Too many statheads think they are! If turnovers were random, the Patriots wouldn't have been so great in this stat through the Belichick/Brady era. Though...frankly...plus five through 12 games isn't all that great for them. They're usually better.

Market Performance
New England: 5-5-2 ATS (7-5 to the Over)
Houston: 6-6 ATS (7-4-1 to the Over)

The market has settled in with both teams. Backers have juiced out. Though, oddsmakers have missed the mark just a bit on totals. These two are a combined 14-9-1 to the Over...which means the defenses aren't as good as thought...or the offenses are a bit more explosive.

Current Line: New England by 3.5, total of 45

Very tricky situation. New England has to break their losing streak...but isn't in the best of health. Can you trust this team to cover more than a field goal vs. a playoff contender when they aren't in synch? Goodness...Houston's been a lot better than Philadelphia lately! The Eagles just scored an upset in Foxboro last week. On the other hand...if Houston decides to play the percentages and concede this week so they can have an edge over the Colts the rest of the way...then a home dog investment is a waste of money.

JIM HURLEY'S exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach is made just for situations like this! If there's an edge to be found...NETWORK clients will get it. You can purchase the final word for Sunday right here at the website with your credit card. Between now and the resumption of Week 14 in the NFL, build your bankrolls with college and pro basketball. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK to cover Monday Night Football. Here's what's on the immediate agenda...

Monday: NFL TV Preview...NY Giants at Miami
Midweek: NFL TV Preview...Tampa Bay at St. Louis
Bowl Preview: BYU vs. Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl
Next Sunday: NFL TV Preview...Arizona at Philadelphia
Next Monday: NFL TV Preview...Detroit at New Orleans

The league didn't exactly grant ESPN with a great Monday Night schedule. And, Tampa Bay/St. Louis will only be interesting if you're charting the career of promising rookie Jameis Winston (which we are!). Those are nice appetizers though to the big college and pro games that are just around the corner. We're really looking forward to the college football Final Four!

Hey...every game is MUST-WIN when you're betting in Las Vegas. Be sure you GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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