Saturday Night Football features a match-up between an AFC team still in the playoff hunt and another fighting to avoid a losing record. The 5-8 Bengals head to Houston to take on the AFC South-leading Texans. Houston, is tied with Tennessee for the top spot in the division, so every game is a must-win from here on out.
The Texans have confirmed that back-up QB Tom Savage will get the nod after benching Brock Osweiler the previous week. Could Savage keep the Texans in the division lead and score an ATS pick for their backers? Keep reading to see which way I’m leaning.
Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
When: Saturday, Dec.24 at 8:30 pm ET
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Betting Odds: Houston -2.5, Total 41
Analysis: Texan fans are probably saying, “It’s about time!” It only took almost an entire season. But, Houston coach Bill O’Brien finally benched the terrible Brock Osweiler for second-string QB Tom Savage. Savage may have saved the Texans’ season when rallying Houston to a 21-20 win over Jacksonville in Week 15.
Why replace Osweiler? Since a lot of football handicappers probably haven’t paid attention to Houston this season, Osweiler, the Texans’ prized free agent pick-up over the summer, has been the worst quarterback in the NFL. He’s been much worse than either of the rookie starting QBs this season, Jared Goff at Los Angeles and Carson Wentz at Philadelphia. Osweiler’s QB rating, after throwing for only 48 yards and two interceptions against Indianapolis this past Sunday, stands at 71.4. He’s thrown 14 TDs to 16 INTs. on the season
Savage completed 23 of 36 passes for 260 yards. While Savage didn’t throw a TD pass, he was so effective at opening up the offense versus the Jags that the Texans rallied for the win. It was an important win for Houston.
Can the Texans keep it going against the Cincinnati Bengals, who were all but eliminated from the playoffs with their 20-24 loss to Pittsburgh last week? Maybe.
Savage might be good enough for the Texans to take advantage of Cincinnati’s less-than-stellar defense. He’s certainly going to take care of the football more than Osweiler did. It’s hard to see the Bengals putting in a lot of effort on stopping Savage in a road game after the heartbreak they suffered last week.
This is one of those situations where a team is playing for something and the other team is playing for nothing. Cincinnati has an outside chance of making the playoffs, but if you blow a double-digit lead against a division rival while playing for your playoff lives like Cincy did last week, how can you trust them to go on the road just a few days later to beat a team that is in control of their own future? You don’t.
Going back to the Bengals’ defense, Cincinnati allows 359 yards per game. The Cincinnati secondary plays well when allowing only 241.6 passing yards per. But, Cincinnati’s rush defense is terrible. The Bengals give up 117.5 rushing yards per game.
Savage should be able to lean on Lamar Miller in the rushing game. Miller’s had a decent season, racking up 1,073 rushing yards. Houston’s passing game, with Osweiler at the helm, ranked 30th in the NFL in passing yards per game. If the Texans start Savage, he should be able to lean on Miller while Miller should be able to lean on Savage. Houston’s offense is going to be that much better with Savage under center (they can’t get much worse, right?).
Houston’s defense only allows 203.5 passing yards and 103 rushing yards per game. Cincinnati’s only true rusher is Jeremy Hill now that Giovanni Bernard is hurt. Houston has the edge on defense. Houston is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games while the Bengals are 2-4 ATS in their last 6. The trends don’t appear to give a clear indication one way or another in this game.
NFL ATS Free Pick: Houston -2.5