Bill O’Brien and the Texans franchise are very lucky to have one of the best quarterbacks to pull out close games in Deshaun Watson. The Texans were both outgained (6213 to 5792) and outscored (385 to 378) last regular season, but they muscled out a 10-6 record to win the AFC South. They finished 11-7 overall (8-9-1 against the spread) after a memorable win against the Bills and a memorable loss to the Chiefs in the playoffs. The Texans cashed at +130 odds to make the playoffs and they also banked +175 odds to win the AFC South.
The Texans were one of the eight final teams last season because of their success in one-score games. They finished 9-3 (including a playoff win) in games decided by eight points or fewer, which included an absolutely silly 6-1 mark in games decided by a field goal or less. Houston finished 2-3 in games decided by three scores or more and they went 9-7 toward under totals despite scoring 23.9 points per game (12th-most) and allowing 25.3 PPG (10th most).
Even after winning a playoff game, Houston saw its 2020 season win total fall by a full game from last season when they were lined at eight and a half wins. The Texans went over their 2019 season win total with their ninth victory of the season over the Titans in Week 15. Houston is +144 to make the postseason for the third straight year with Watson at the helm. Entering training camp, I have the Texans power rated as the 18th-best team in the NFL (+5000 to win Super Bowl LV), as the ninth-best team in the AFC (+2500 to win the conference), and as the third-best team in the AFC South (+350).
|Week||Opponent (spread if available)||Time|
|1||@Kansas City Chiefs (+10)||8:20 (Thurs)|
|2||Baltimore Ravens (+5.5)||4:25|
|3||@Pittsburgh Steelers (+4.5)||1|
|7||Green Bay Packers||1|
|11||New England Patriots (-1)||1|
|12||@Detroit Lions (+2.5)||12:30 (Thurs)|
|13||Indianapolis Colts (-1)||1|
|15||@Indianapolis Colts (+5)||TBA|
Key Off-season Moves
Brandin Cooks (WR)
David Johnson (RB)
Randall Cobb (WR)
Ross Blacklock (DT)
Jonathan Greenard (LB)
Eric Murray (S)
Phillip Gaines (CB)
D.J. Reader (DT, Cin)
DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Ari)
Barkevious Mingo (LB, Chi)
Johnathan Joseph (CB, Ten)
Carlos Hyde (RB, Sea)
Lamar Miller (RB, FA)
Tashaun Gipson (S, Chi)
Jahleel Addae (S, FA)
2020 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||7.5 (-106/115)|
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
Bill O’Brien has five winning seasons and the Texans have gone over their win total in five of his six years in Houston. The only time the Texans finished below expectations under O’Brien came in Deshaun Watson’s rookie season when the #12 overall pick played in just six games before tearing his ACL in 2017. Watson has exceeded expectations to cash overs on Houston’s season win totals the past two seasons, and it’s usually a bad idea to bet against Watson if you’re looking to make money.
Watson will be working without DeAndre Hopkins for the first time in his career so we’ll find out relatively early just how much Nuk meant toward the success of this offense. The Texans may not have Hopkins in the fold this season, but they could have a deeper receiving corps this season. They added vertical WR Brandin Cooks and slot WR Randall Cobb this off-season to pair with Will Fuller and Kenny Stills. Third-year TE Jordan Akins is an under-the-radar receiver to keep an eye on. Watson is a brilliant deep passer and this offense could feature one of the league’s most explosive vertical passing games with Watson throwing to some elite downfield talents in Fuller, Cooks, and Stills.
It’s tough to find many positives with the Texans’ difficult schedule, but it does get significantly easier in the back half of the year if they’re able to weather the storm through a brutal stretch of games in the first seven weeks of the season. The Jaguars were the only team lined below .500 in their first seven games, but they have four contests against below .500 teams (@Jax, @Det, @Chi, Cin) after their Week 8 bye.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The markets are way down on the Texans after they traded away DeAndre Hopkins, but they have other concerns outside of losing their top offensive weapon, and most of those issues are on the defensive side of the ball. J.J. Watt is as dominant as any defensive player when he’s on the field, but he’s now played in just half of his games in the last four seasons. The Texans need him to be dominant once again to offset some of their run defense and cornerback concerns, but that could be a lot to ask entering his age-31 season.
Houston lost run-stuffer D.J. Reader (Bengals) in free agency, which could be a massive loss for a defense that allowed the fifth-most YPC (4.9) to opponents last season. The Texans used their first pick on DT Ross Blacklock in the second round, but we’ll see if he can make an immediate impact. The Texans also have plenty of options at cornerback, but they need a few former top draft picks to step up and play like high-end players after the Texans allowed the fourth-most passing yards per game (269.2).
The Texans will also be breaking in new offensive (Tim Kelly) and defensive (Anthony Weaver) play-callers this season. Both Kelly and Weaver have at least been around the team for several seasons, and former play-callers Bill O’Brien and Romeo Crennel are still on staff to help with the transition. Still, if the Texans have any issues with the transitions to new play-callers, the results could show up in close games. The Texans dominated in tight games last season thanks to Deshaun Watson, finishing with an incredible 6-1 record in field-goal games (playoffs included). Houston is unlikely to keep up that blistering pace in three-point games this season.
The Texans weren’t given many breaks when it came to their schedule with 11 of their 16 games against teams lined at .500 or better heading into the season. The Texans may have the most difficult first month of the season with contests against four teams favored to make the playoffs this season (@KC, Bal, @Pit, Min). Houston received the Chiefs and the Patriots as their extra AFC contests this season, and they have five road contests in a seven-game stretch after their Week 8 bye, which includes a pair of back-to-backs in Weeks 9-10 (@Jax, @Cle) and in Weeks 14-15 (@Chi, @Ind).
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Deshaun Watson: passing yards (4050.5), passing TDs (27.5), MVP (+2500)
Fantasy Points Projection: passing yards (4095), rushing + receiving yards (24)
Best-case scenario: Watson doesn’t miss a beat with DeAndre Hopkins leaving town. The overall depth of this new receiving corps shines through and Watson cements his place as an upper-echelon QB.
Worst-case scenario: The Texans can’t get a receiver to step up to be Watson’s #1 option in big spots, and he struggles to find his footing without Hopkins to bail him out in tough spots.
Brandin Cooks: receiving yards (850.5) most receiving yards (+6000)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (865)
Best-case scenario: Cooks gets back to posting 65+ catches and 1000+ yards like he did in four straight seasons before 2019, and his downfield ability really shines through playing with one of the league’s best deep passers.
Worst-case scenario: Cooks can’t separate himself from Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, and Randall Cobb, which causes sporadic weekly production. It also takes him time to get on the same page as a downfield threat with Deshaun Watson.
Best Bets and Leans
The Texans received plenty of headlines this off-season for the decision-making by HC/GM Bill O’Brien, and the vast majority of those headlines were anything but positive. O’Brien and the Texans will have the chance to silence their vocal critics this season with a sixth winning season in seven years with O’Brien at the helm. Of course, DeAndre Hopkins played a huge hand in the success of those teams and he’s no longer in town after O’Brien sent him packing to Arizona.
Fans and critics will either be talking about how dumb the Hopkins trade was all season long, or Deshaun Watson and his deeper receiving corps will shut up the haters and put the Hopkins talk behind them early in the year. I, for one, am done doubting that Watson isn’t already among the elite QBs in the league and that he can’t get it done without Hopkins in the fold. If anything, his new receiving corps highlights what he does best as one of the best downfield throwers in the game.
Still, all the data is pointing toward the Texans finishing under their season win total. The Texans were incredibly fortunate in close games last season, they have the toughest schedule in the division, and their overall roster is slightly weaker than it was last season. In the end, betting against the most underrated QB in the league hasn’t been a way to make money. I’m leaning toward the Texans over seven and a half wins this season, which would give O’Brien six winning seasons in seasons. I also think there’s some value on Watson at +2500 odds to win the MVP this season. Watson will have a great narrative this season if he’s able to play at an elite level without Hopkins, and the Texans have an outside shot of getting to 11 wins to challenge for the top seed in the AFC and to get himself in the MVP conversation.
Best Bets: None
Leans: Texans over seven and a half wins (-106, DraftKings)…Deshaun Watson to win MVP (+2500, DraftKings/betonline.ag)