We’ve already discussed how Football Outsiders isn’t buying the Houston Texans in 2017. Prior to that, we noted that Vegas is more optimistic about the Texans’ chances next season, albeit with the caveat that setting a line on season wins for a sports book is not necessarily analogous to a steadfast belief that a team will hit that number as much as it is a method for drawing action from bettors.
Why the discrepancy? Our buddy Rivers McCown tackled that very question in a recent piece for ESPN. Rivers analyzed the four NFL teams that Vegas has tabbed as more than two wins away from Football Outsiders’ projections. For the Texans, here’s what he wrote:
Over/under: 8.5 (as low as 8) | Our projection: 6.2
The problem with the Texans is one of perception. From the outside, you see a team that won the AFC South two years in a row and that has finished above .500 every year of the Bill O'Brien era despite no real quarterback play. But statistically, this team was awful last year. The Texans finished 29th in DVOA despite winning the AFC South, and opponents outscored them by a total of 49 points. Had Marcus Mariota not broken his leg in Week 16, the Texans easily could have missed the playoffs.
So our projections for the Texans are basically unchanged. The defense is still good. Special-teams play is still projected to be dead last, a position they've held in back-to-back seasons. And the offense is projected to be near the bottom of the league as well. If you believe Deshaun Watson at quarterback is talented enough to pull them out of the doldrums, you should happily hammer the over. Just know that over the course of history, unsettled quarterback situations with young players like Watson and Tom Savage don't tend to have happy endings. At least, not right away.
Before you begin decrying Rivers’ pessimism, allow me to remind you that the man once wrote a rather unpopular gem around these parts about Texans’ quarterback play that proved to be disturbingly prescient.
Which side do you believe is closer to the truth about the 2017 Houston Texans—Vegas’ 8.5 wins or FO’s 6.2 wins?