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NFL Playoffs: Texans vs. Patriots O/U and ATS Predictions

Houston Texans(10-7) @ New England Patriots(14-2)

  • Where: Gillette Stadium. Foxboro, MA
  • When: January 14, 2017 8:15 pm EST
  • Spread: Houston +16 (+100) at New England -16 (-120)
  • Over / Under: Over 44 1/2 (-105) vs Under 44 1/2 (-115)

As 2016’s training camp arrived, Patriots fans with spite in their heart for Roger Goodell – who suspended Tom Brady for the first four games of the regular season after a long legal battle – were anxious to see Brady throw the bean around the battlefield and out-score everyone to claim another top playoff seed.

Those fans have gotten their way – sort of.

Patriots HC Bill Belichick once won games with great defense and ball-control. In the Brady era, The Hoodie has modified that approach by focusing resources on passing and scoring points – partly due to NFL rules changes that ham-string DBs, and partly to abide one of the greatest pocket passers in league history. But Belichick now sees defenses catching up, and notices the pro game becoming even more physical in the trenches.

Time to adjust yet again. This season, New England has actually featured a #1 running back, LaGarrette Blount, who has rushed for over 1100 yards in 16 games. Playing better ‘D than Bostonian fans are accustomed to watching, the Pats shut out the Texans – who visit them in this weekend’s Divisional Round – and the Bills in successive early games, and later held the Broncos and Jets to six combined points in Weeks 15 and 16.

Rather than making it easy, the 2016-17 Pats’ adjustment in style is making it harder for bettors to find value plays. New England still wins straight-up almost all of the time. But playing the spread is tricky – with a ten-point lead against a two-touchdown underdog, the Patriots are likely to hand off and run the clock.

The Patriots haven’t lost since mid-November, and have had two weeks to prepare for Houston. Do the interlopers from Space City have any prayer of pulling the upset? Are there any smart wagers besides betting on the Pats to romp?

Texans – If the suit fits, wear a parka

Texans vs. Patriots ATS PredictionQB Brock Osweiler recently purchased new suits for his entire offensive line, which may turn out to be more of a cruel joke than a kind gesture. The Texans have been practicing in 70-degree weather, and trounced third-string QB Connor Cook and the Raiders in mild California in the Wild-Card Round. Now, the squad must travel to frigid Foxboro to play one of the very best in the business.

With Osweiler having a very modest season and star pass-rusher J.J. Watt out for the season, Houston has relied on team defense and a solid running game to qualify and advance in the bracket. Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus have combined for 13.5 sacks, and the team stands 8th of 32 in rushing yards and 11th in scoring defense.

Perhaps leading WR DeAndre Hopkins can have a big Saturday night and keep the Texans in the game. But the 24 y/o receiver has only scored four touchdowns and is easy to tackle, ranked fourth among Houston pass-catchers with less than 200 yards after-contact. It will be up to RB Lamar Miller and the visitors’ offensive line to somehow grind out 1st downs and keep Tom Brady off the field.

Patriots – Just win baby

New England is 5-0 ATS in its past five games. A visit to Denver in Week 15 looked potentially ominous, but offensive woes in Colorado made it easy for the Pats. When Miami hosted in the last week of the season, Brady refused to let up as the squad fought hard to clinch home-field advantage and won 35-14.

But bettors must keep the Patriots’ ultimate goal in mind. That goal is not to help ATS players fatten their wallets, but to advance to the AFC Championship. If the team enters the 4th quarter with a two-touchdown lead and can increase their odds of winning S/U by playing conservative, they will be glad to take the air out of the ball (no, not literally…at least not this time).

Tony Kornheiser, the biggest New England mark among ESPN journalists, is saying that (-16) is a generous point spread even with the Brady vs Osweiler mismatch at hand. MSB agrees.

LaGarrette Blount is questionable for Saturday’s game with the “flu,” which in Patriots-land means he has some type of injury. If Blount is sidelined, it could actually hurt a bet on the under as Brady will fire off more passes – even with security-blanket muscleman TE Rob Gronkowski sitting out the season.

Texans at Patriots over/under playoff picks

Wager on over 44.5 points (-105) in the Texans vs. Patriots playoff game at Bovada.

The Patriots will almost surely win, whether it’s 41-28 or 35-10. But despite the Texans’ offensive woes, with the O/U set at a paltry 44.5 the surest bet is the over. Houston pass rushers will not be able to reach Brady without the advantage of home-field, which increases the Pats’ chance at scoring 4 or 5 touchdowns once the emotion of the first few minutes wears off for the visitors.

An ice storm currently sweeping the Midwest will not reach Boston by Saturday, meaning that scoring conditions will be as close to ideal as a Foxboro contest in January can make them.

If the Texans somehow take a lead, the defiant and vindictive New England QB will fire rockets in the 2nd half and make up the deficit with a flurry of scoring, ensuring a winning wager on the high side of the O/U.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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