Posted on December 19, 2019, by Travis Pulver
The Houston Texans (9-5) were in a must-win situation last week against the Tennessee Titans. The race for the AFC South was already tight. But since they won, they were able to hold onto the advantage— however, the division is not locked up yet.
To that end, they have to win this weekend against the pass-happy Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7).
No problem, right? Eh—not so fast. With the acquisitions the Texans have made during the season, the secondary has improved. But they are still one of the lower-ranked units in the league (28th; 266.1 yards/game).
For the last two weeks, Buccaneers quarterback, Jameis Winston, has been torching defenses. He shredded the Colts for 456 yards two weeks ago and the Lions for 458 yards last week for his third 400+ yard day of the season.
With how the season has played out, there is a very good chance that Winston leads the league in passing this year. That kind of production in the passing game could be troublesome for the Texans to handle.
But part of the reason the Buccaneers are throwing so much is that their run game is nonexistent. That and Winston’s habit of throwing interceptions often puts them in a hole. If they are going to try to get out of said hole, they have no choice but to throw the ball.
However, it may not be as easy this week since their best two receivers, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, are out with injuries.
Last week, against the Titans, the Texans played the kind of game head coach Bill O’Brien loves—ball control, and it worked. Carlos Hyde was able to churn out 100+ yards or just the third time this season. Deshaun Watson played a relatively clean and efficient game, except for two interceptions.
While the defense did allow a few big plays, they were able to make sure the Titans earned every yard they gained—and kept them from scoring too many points. Ryan Tannehill still had a pretty good day throwing the ball (22-36 for 279 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception).
But it wasn’t good enough.
Now comes the tricky part for the Texans—can they do it again this week against a good but inferior and fallible Buccaneers squad? The defense is already playing without J.J. Watt, but it will also have to do without the services of Jacob Martin and Benardrick McKinney.
With Tampa Bay likely being forced to look to their running backs for more help in the passing game, Houston’s linebackers could be the key to the game.
Buccaneers-Texans Prediction and Betting Tips
Houston is going to do like they often have—control the clock with the run game and put points on the board in the passing game. It may take them a few possessions to warm up, but once they do, they will be in good shape. Winston will likely help them out a little with an interception on the Bucs first drive of the game.
The Texans (-165) are favored by three over the Buccaneers (+143) at DraftKings. Look for them to win by six. As for the over/under (50)—take the over. Both can put up some serious points and probably will.