"I think we are a contender, so that's no surprise to me. I guess they got tired of losing money out there, putting our over-and-under too low, so they're getting more realistic." -- Houston Texans owner Bob McNair trash-talking the oddsmakers when asked about the Texans' status as favorites in the AFC South
I am really hoping that quotes like the one above are signs of a subtle "trash-talking" heel turn for the venerable owner of our hometown team. You've got to love Bob McNair taking revisionist umbrage with the sports books in Vegas supposedly shortchanging the Texans on the total in their season win total prop bet in years past.
Never mind that just two seasons ago, with Vegas setting the number at 8.5 (and the wagering "juice" amount skewed heavily toward the over), the Texans went out and laid a six-win dud that nearly got Gary Kubiak whacked.
Why let facts get in the way! I guess we're moving forward with the "We'll all agree 2010 never happened" proposition that was apparently brought to the floor and voted upon. All righty then.
(And by the way, I'm totally serious about McNair. If he wants to go personality makeover on everyone and start to take on more of a brash "Houston oil baron" persona, like a combination of the Seinfeld Astro front-office characters and Big Earl Haffer, I am all for this. If we're going to a Super Bowl, let's ACT like we're going to a Super Bowl. Let's act like assholes!)
The more important part about McNair's quote on Thursday from Texans OTAs is that it alludes to the first set of season win total prop bets hitting the market! On a week where Facebook had the biggest IPO in the history of IPOs, it's appropriate that we get the NFL season wager equivalent of the IPO -- if you feel like you know something Vegas doesn't, now is the time to lock in on season win totals you feel are a little soft.
I'll give you my "market outlook" in just a second, but let's start with the Texans, whose season win total has been set at ten regular season wins.
The "juice" on the bet is -140 on the over and +110 on the under, which means the risk is higher to win a smaller amount on the over. In plain English, the public likes "Over ten wins" much more than "Under ten wins" for the Texans at this time. (Those numbers can and oftentimes do change, obviously.)
What do I think of that "10 WIN" number?
I think it's spot-on, to the point where I wouldn't touch the bet. A bet on the OVER is based on the same speculative "If the Texans had Matt Schaub, they'd have gone to the Super Bowl" line of thinking that many espoused after the playoffs this past postseason. To get to 11-5, the Texans HAVE to have a healthy Schaub, and that should be a concern.
If anything, I think a better case can be made on the UNDER:
1. When the Texans were at their best last season, during the seven-game winning streak that took them from 3-3 to 10-3, the list of quarterbacks they faced looked like this: Hasselbeck, Gabbert, McCoy, Freeman, Gabbert (again), Ryan and Dalton. Not any real world-beaters in that bunch. The schedule this year includes Brady, Rodgers, Stafford, Peyton Manning, Cutler and Flacco. Hell, even with Andrew Luck, they don't catch him for either Colts game until the final three weeks of the season. 2. Of the five prime-time/nationally televised games, four of them are on the road and the one home game is against the best opponent of that bunch (Green Bay). Basically, what I'm saying with these first two bullet points is that the schedule is a bitch.
3. The Texans have never won more than ten regular season games in their history, and I just have a general rule of thumb which says, "Never bet on a team to do something that they've never, ever done in the history of their franchise."
4. If there are significant injuries (and last year we learned there always seem to be), the UNDER always immediately becomes a better play.
So, gun to my head, I'd take the UNDER at +110 but I'd feel terrible about it and would be afraid that someone in the Bull Pen reads this blog and would hit me with a sock full of nickels at the regular-season opener against Miami.
While we're on season win total bets, here are a few more "stocks" I'd get in on early before the lines move:
Carolina Panthers OVER 7.5 (-115) Cincinnati Bengals UNDER 7.5 (+100) Green Bay Packers OVER 12 (-125) Miami Dolphins UNDER 7.5 (-120) Tampa Bay Bucs UNDER 6 (-120) Washington Redskins UNDER 6.5 (-130)
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We will keep an eye on our "portfolio" throughout the preseason.
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