The Patriots opened as 3.5-point favorites as they prepare to host the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football in Week 14.
An 11-1 team being labeled a significant underdog this late in the season is about as common as Antonio Cromartie using any form of birth control, so this spread deserves a careful eye. How can a 9-3 New England team with well-documented problems on defense be favored by more than a field goal against an 11-1 Texans team that has looked dominant most of the season on both sides of the ball?
The biggest part of the spread may be due to some chinks showing up in the Houston armor the past few weeks on pass defense. Prior to shutting down a very shut-downable Jake Locker last week, the Texans had given up nearly 800 yards and 6 scores through the air in the previous two weeks against Detroit and Jacksonville. The Houston base defense was extremely tough in the first half of the season, so teams have started playing more 3+ WR sets to force the Texans into sub packages. It’s a copycat league, so the prevailing wisdom would have the Patriots spreading the Texans out and keeping some of their better defenders on the sidelines.
Another issue is strength of schedule. Only two of Houston’s 12 opponents have a winning record (a six-point win over the Broncos and a severe beating of the Ravens the week after Baltimore lost a pair of playmakers on defense), while the Patriots have played four teams with records north of .500. Also, stud RB Arian Foster may be showing some signs of slowing down, averaging .4 fewer yards per carry so far in the second half of the season. If the Patriots can hold him under 4 yards per carry, it’s hard to figure out a way the Texans can pull out a win.
It’s worth noting that the line has already come down a bit with plenty of folks betting on the Patriots. Get those bets in early. While the spread looks a little wonky, I’m happy to lay the points and pick the Patriots to cover.
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