NFL against the spread picks: Can the Texans win without Deshaun Watson?

Shutdown Corner

Here’s a sentence that wouldn’t have made sense before the season: The Houston Texans defense isn’t good anymore, but rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is so great he can overcome it.

Of course, that changed Thursday. In one of the most shocking injuries we’ve seen in a while, Watson’s season ended when he tore his ACL in a non-contact practice drill. The obvious reaction is sadness over losing one of the NFL’s best stories this season. But the Texans still have nine football games to play. And now they have a leaky defense with Tom Savage at quarterback.

The most concerning part of Houston’s epic game last week against the Seattle Seahawks was the defense. Russell Wilson had 452 yards. The Texans could not get a stop. This was their first game without J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus (not counting a game against the offensively-challenged Cleveland Browns), and they looked bad. But that was OK because they had a star at quarterback and an offense that looked explosive. Not anymore.

The good news is the Texans get the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, and the Colts have their own problems. But can see how much Las Vegas values Deshaun Watson, even after just six starts. The line moved from the Texans being favored by 12.5-to-14 points to Houston being minus-7. Part of that is respect for Watson. Part of that is a penalty for Savage, who still has never thrown an NFL touchdown. For the Westgate SuperContest, the line was set at minus-13 on Wednesday and it’s rare to get six free points. So if you’re in a Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em contest (line is Houston minus-14) or in the SuperContest, take the free spot on the bingo card and grab the Colts. Then we’ll see if the Texans with Savage and a beat-up defense can overcome all their massive injuries. I’m assuming it won’t be very pretty.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will be out for the rest of the season. (AP)
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will be out for the rest of the season. (AP)

Here are the Week 9 against-the-spread picks:


Broncos (+8.5) over Eagles: No, I really don’t like Brock Osweiler. But I’ll continue to believe in the Broncos’ defense keeping games close. (The line is plus-9 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)

Seahawks (-7) over Redskins: When Russell Wilson gets hot, he can go on historic runs. He’s white hot right now. Also, the Redskins’ injury report Wednesday listed 21 (!) players. Many of those players will go on Sunday but not all of them will, and Washington’s banged-up offensive line is a problem. (The line is minus-8 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)

Cowboys (+1) over Chiefs: Had Ezekiel Elliott been suspended, I’d have gone with the Chiefs. Friday’s administrative stay allows Elliott to play, and the Cowboys have looked really good the past couple weeks with him in the lineup. (The line is pick ’em in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)

Dolphins (+3) over Raiders: Yes, the Dolphins looked awful in Baltimore last week. But how many times have we seen a team look terrible one week and then look completely different the next week? Also ask yourself this: What have the Raiders done lately to deserve being a field-goal favorite on the road against anyone?

And the rest of the picks …

Jets (+3) over Bills (picked Thursday): The Jets had the lowest season win total in the NFL at 4.5, according to OddsShark. It even dropped as low as 3.5 wins at some sportsbooks. If you took the over at 3.5, you won on Nov. 2. Todd Bowles is doing a remarkable job.

Titans (off) over Ravens: The line is off on the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em because of uncertainty over Joe Flacco’s status. The line in the SuperContest is Ravens plus-5 and most Las Vegas casinos have it about Ravens plus-3.5. I use the Yahoo line for my season record, but this is a game I wouldn’t pick if I didn’t pick all of them. The Titans just haven’t looked good yet. Maybe that changes with Marcus Mariota healthier and Corey Davis back.

Buccaneers (+7.5) over Saints: I’m impressed by the Saints, but NFC South games are typically close. The Buccaneers are still capable of moving the ball, last week’s egg against the Panthers notwithstanding.

Rams (-3) over Giants: It seems like fool’s gold taking the 5-2 Rams at just a field goal over the 1-6 GIants, but I do think the Rams’ defense has started to figure things out, and they’re coming off a bye. If the Rams want to be taken seriously, this is the kind of game they have to win.

Falcons (pick ’em) over Panthers: The Falcons are too good to be this mediocre all season. I don’t love the Panthers trading Kelvin Benjamin like they’re in sell mode and looking forward to next season. The one caveat is that the Panthers look like a different team with Luke Kuechly back, but I think the Falcons start to emerge starting this Sunday.

Jaguars (-4.5) over Bengals: I have no idea how Cincinnati’s terrible offensive line protects Andy Dalton against Jacksonville’s pass rush. They have 10 sacks in a game twice this season, and they might reach it again Sunday.

Cardinals (-1) over 49ers: I’d like to think the 49ers rise to the occasion because this is a winnable game for a team without a win. But switching from Brian Hoyer to C.J. Beathard has set the 49ers back, and losing top receiver Pierre Garcon doesn’t help. The bad part about picking the Cardinals is having to back Drew Stanton.

Packers (+2.5) over Lions: I’m stubborn on some things, and I’m going to be stubborn on believing Brett Hundley can be a competent quarterback. If he can’t do it this week at home, coming off a bye, then I’ll let it go.

Last week: 4-9
Season to date: 65-51-4
SuperContest: 2-3 last week, 21-17-2 season to date

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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