As noted last post, basically every Thursday night game I’ve broken down so far this season has gone the wrong way. Is one team better on defense? They give up at least 30. Is one team better at passing? They can barely move the ball. So I expect the same thing to happen tonight.
Surprisingly enough, the Texans actually have slightly better core stats than the Colts. They average more yards per rush, although both teams are below average, and they get more yards per passing attempt as well. Houston’s relative downfall, however, is that they haven’t passed as often as Indianapolis, and when they do they have been sacked a little more often and thrown a few more interceptions (actually they have the same number of picks and one fewer sack, but their rates are higher since they pass less frequently). Since they pass more often, the Colts actually have the higher overall yards per play.
The Texans do have an actual advantage on pass defense; their yards per attempt is 9th in the league while the Colts’ is 22nd. However, the Colts again mitigate this by having better interception and sack rates, showing once again that J.J. Watt can only do so much. Both teams are bad at defending the run.
All in all, the models don’t think that Houston is the better team. But since they are at home, they give the Texans a 1-2 point edge. Since Houston is getting 2-3 points, they would all say to pick the Texans, and since this is a Thursday night game this year, they’ll end up wrong. Probably more so if Fitzgerald and/or Andre Johnson are out or at less than 100%
After the Bengals got thrashed on Monday night, there’s a new top team this week. The Chargers take over, but their numbers are not dominant when I look back at previous seasons. However, there is a decent-sized gap between them and the number two team, the Broncos. At the other end, the Jaguars are unsurprisingly still in last with the Raiders not too far ahead. Atlanta might be surprising, coming in at #6 despite their 2-3 record. It’s because the Falcons’ offense has done pretty well, coming in with the best yards per play in the league. Their defense is nearly as bad, but good offense beats good defense, generally speaking.