Eagles – Texans Pregame Notes

I’m feeling pretty good about today’s game.  Obviously, the Eagles have demonstrated they can give games away to worse teams (even if they haven’t actually done so just yet).  Anytime you turn the ball over multiple times, the other team is going to have a very good shot at winning, regardless of quality.  However, consider these (some from the odds breakdown below):

Opponents in common.  Here are the outcomes:

Giants: Eagles win by 27 (home).  Texans lose by 13 (road).

Washington: Eagles win by 3 (home). Texans win by 11 (home).

Colts: Eagles win by 3 (road). Texans lose by 5 (home).

On balance, the results favor the Eagles by a significant margin.

– For as much grief as Nick Foles has caused this season, his numbers are remarkably similar to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s:

Foles: 59.2% Comp., 4% TD, 3% INT, 6.49 NY/A,  2.3% Sack Rate

Fitzpatrick: 63.4% Comp., 4% TD, 3.1% INT, 6.98 NY/A, 6.6% Sack Rate

That’s not meant to absolve Foles from criticism, but it does raise a pretty important issue for today’s game: Even with Foles playing like crap, the Eagles don’t have a disadvantage at QB.

– From the previous bullet, look at Fitzpatrick’s sack rate.  It’s 6.6%.  The Eagles defense has a sack rate of 6.5%.  In other words, we should see a lot of pressure from the DL today.

– The Texans are averaging just 23.1 points per game this year.  Moreover, they’ve yet to play a defense as good as the Eagles, at least by DVOA.  Arian Foster is having a really good year, and DeAndre Hopkins scares me a bit, but on paper the Eagles should be able to shut down Houston.

– The game will really hinge on the performance of the Eagles offense.  The Texans are allowing just 20.8 points per game this year.  Now, they’ve played a pretty easy schedule as well.  Their best opponents thus far are the Cowboys, Colts, and Steelers.  Against those teams, the Texans are 0-3 and have allowed 20, 33, and 30 points (average of 27.6).  The Eagles offense hasn’t been as good as those teams’ units, but there’s clearly opportunity there.

The Eagles scored 20 points last week on the road in Arizona, against a much better defense.  They SHOULD be able to do much better today.

– Darren Sproles is back.  That’s a big deal, especially today. The Texans have a relatively weak punting unit, so if Sproles is healthy he might be able to give the offense a big advantage via strong field position.  The combination of good field position and a strong kicker means the offense really doesn’t need to do much in order to get points on the board.  Just as big, perhaps, is that Maclin won’t have to return punts.  With #18 back there, a turnover seems to be inevitable, as he’s just not reading the punts very well.

– Jason Kelce is back too.  I think Kelce/Mathis has been a much bigger loss than any of us projected.  I think it’s effected Chip’s play-calling, Shady’s ability to contribute, and consequently Nick Foles’ efficiency.  With Kelce back, we can start to analyze whether that hypothesis is true.  If it is, the upside for this team is immense.  If it’s just wishful thinking, though, we’re in for rough ride as far as Foles evaluation/hand-wringing goes.

That’s enough for now.  The spread says this should be a close game, but I don’t see it.  If the Eagles avoid turnovers (admittedly a big “IF” at this point), I think they win by a TD or more.

My picks record to date:

Line: 2 – 5

O/U: 3 – 4

Reader record:

Line: 3 – 4

O/U: 5 – 2

This week’s lines:

Eagles -2 (+115)

Texans +2 (-105)

Over 49 (-110)

Under 49 (-110)

Reviewing last week:

Last week was a great example of why it’s so difficult to win money by betting on the NFL.  Here’s what I said: “the Eagles at 20 and the Cardinals at 20-24 points”.  The line was 3.  Unfortunately, the Cardinals hit the one value in that range the fell outside the point spread.  Fortunately, we did hit the under.  I’m not 100% sure, but I believe it’s the first time the readers chose the under.  Good timing.

This week’s game:

The Houston Texans are 4-4, but there is a pretty big split in quality between the teams they’ve beaten and the ones they’ve lost to.

Wins: Washington, RaidersTitansBills

Losses: GiantsCowboysColts, and Steelers.

Which group of teams do the Eagles fit better with?

The Numbers:

Eagles Overall DVOA: 12.4% (6th)

Texans Overall DVOA: -4.8% (22nd)

Eagles Offense DVOA: -3.7% (23rd)

Texans Defense DVOA: -2.5% (13th)

Eagles Defense DVOA: -6% (8th)

Texans Offense DVOA: -2.5% (19th)

With Darren Sproles back, the Eagles appear to have a very large advantage on STs.  The Eagles still rank 1st, while the Texans are 27th.  The punt return game for the Eagles looks especially promising.

Clearly, the Eagles are the better team by DVOA.  It’s not even close.  The Texans defense is decent, but nowhere near as good as the Cardinals, so the offense should LOOK much better on Sunday.

The two teams do have several previous opponents in common.  Here are the outcomes:

Giants: Eagles win by 27 (home).  Texans lose by 13 (road).

Washington: Eagles win by 3 (home). Texans win by 11 (home).

Colts: Eagles win by 3 (road). Texans lose by 5 (home).

On balance, the results favor the Eagles by a significant margin.

Score Projection:

The Texans’ defense ranks most similarly to Washington, with just 1.3% DVOA difference (Houston is better).  The Eagles scored 37 against Washington.  Houston also ranks just a bit worse than both Jacksonville and San Francisco.  The Eagles scored 30 and 21 against them (SF was all STs).  That puts us around 30-32 points. The team is averaging 29 points per game, so that seems reasonable.

Meanwhile, the Eagles’ defense is the best the Texans will have faced (by a big margin).  The closest ranking defense Houston has played is Washington (14th).  Against them, Houston scored just 17 points.  In fact, Houston has scored 30 points just twice this year, against Tennessee and Oakland, the 24th and 25th ranked defenses by DVOA.  The Texans are averaging just 23.1 points per game this year.  As demonstrated, they’ve faced a very weak schedule when it comes to defenses.  I’m setting the Texans expected points at 20-23.

You’ll notice that’s a HUGELY different from the spread (Eagles -2).  Usually when we’re this far from the spread, it means we’ve done something wrong.  I really don’t see what though.  The Texans have a .500 record, but they’ve built that with wins, albeit strong ones, against relatively subpar teams.  You can say the same thing about the Eagles, but the Eagles performance in losses has been much more impressive.

Basically, I’m getting a similar feeling to the Giants game a few weeks back.  I think the Eagles roll, and I’m taking them -2. On our over/under, the real risk is the Texans.  As I said, they’ve yet to play a defense playing as well as the Eagles are right now.  They might struggle just as the Giants did.  But I don’t think that’s likely.  I’m taking the Over 49, but I like the spread bet a lot better.

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