NFL Free Pick:
Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans
It’s a must-win for Tennessee. Beat Houston and the Titans will win the AFC South and earn the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs. Lose and they face the possibility of going home for the offseason.
Houston hasn’t won in four weeks and is still reeling after its 37-31 loss to Cincinnati last week. The loss prompted former three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt to erupt on his teammates. Will it have an effect?
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Game: Tennessee Titans (10-5, 7-8 ATS) at Houston Texans (4-11, 5-10 ATS)
When: 4:25 PM ET, Sunday, January 3, 2020
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
Current Line: TEN -7.5 Total: 56
TV Coverage: CBS
There’s really no question who has the better football team in this matchup. The Titans have the NFL’s second-best rushing offense led by the league’s leading rusher Derrick Henry (1,777 yards, 15 TDs). Tennessee is third in the league in scoring (30.0 ppg) and QB Ryan Tannehill (3,603 yards, 32 TDs) has been outstanding.
The Titans defense leaves a bit to be desired - Tennessee allows 26.7 points per game - but head coach Mike Vrabel’s team has won 10 games and put itself in position to win a division title.
That defense gave up 36 points to Houston in the first meeting of the year. The Titans won a 42-36 shootout in Nashville. Tennessee has recorded just 15 sacks this year, the worst number in the NFL. That’s not good because the Titans will be going up against Houston QB Deshaun Watson.
If there has been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal 2020 season, it’s Watson. The Texans quarterback has passed for 4,458 yards and 30 touchdowns. Houston’s passing offense is the fourth-best in the NFL. That spells trouble for the Titans.
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Here’s what else spells trouble for Tennessee. Teams playing in a Week 17 game that they must win do not perform very well for bettors. Teams in this situation - needing a win to make the playoffs in Week 17 - are just 15-23 against the spread.
If you analyze this trend a bit closer when looking for free football picks, you will also find that Week 17 favorites of more than three points in a must-win situation are just 9-19 ATS.
Again, there is no doubt the Titans are the better team. Their offense should do well playing indoors at NRG Stadium. Henry can still hit the 2,000-yard mark. He needs 223 yards to become just the eighth player in NFL history to do so. Henry had 212 rushing yards in the first game with Houston this year.
But, can the Titans cover a 7.5-point spread? Houston has nothing to play for. The Texans can’t even tank the game to improve their position in the draft. They don’t have a first-round pick next year.
What the Texans do have is Watt. He called out all of his teammates after the loss to the Bengals last week. Essentially, Watt told the Texans that if you don’t want to put in the work then get out. Leave.
Athletes don’t like being called out. Expect Houston to respond. It might not be enough to pull off a dramatic upset, but it will be enough to cover the spread. Just like the Texans did as 7.5-point dogs against Indianapolis two weeks ago.
NFL Free Pick: HOUSTON +7.5
We had a rough go of it on our last pick, go see why in our Chiefs at Saints betting pick.