The Texans are favored by just 3.5 points over the Raiders (as of Thursday). That shows just how little Las Vegas thinks of the Houston Texans because this is essentially the Vegas bookies saying that, despite the Raiders' starting a rookie QB who has played in just one game this season, this would be a tie game or an Oakland win were this game to be played on a neutral field.
This is a fair reading by the good gambling folks in Las Vegas. It accurately reflects just how mediocre, how awful the Texans are. The team was lucky to finish the season 9-7 (the team's third straight 9-7 season, by the way). It's a team coached by a supposed offensive genius that scored only 25 touchdowns in 16 games. It's a team that finished 29th out of 32 teams in points, yards and passing yards per game. It's a team that finished tied for the fourth-fewest points scored in the league this season.
Yet the Texans are still somehow in the playoffs. But don't be fooled. The Texans aren't in the postseason because of skill, talent or coaching. The Texans are in the playoffs because they play in the AFC South, which is the NFL equivalent of Conference USA. The Texans managed to go 5-1 in division play despite nearly losing every division game. This is a team that defeated just three squads with winning records, and struggled twice to beat the Jags, a team so bad that its head coach was fired after the second loss to the Texans.
If the Titans special teams doesn't disintegrate and allow a punt return for a TD (which got the Titans special team coach fired), the Texans lose the first game against Tennessee. The Colts dominated the Texans in the first game they played before the defense collapsed at the end of the game and let Brock Osweiler momentarily look like a legitimate quarterback. Hell, the Texans trailed the Bengals 3-0 at the half on Christmas Eve and barely won that game.
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There's a reason Bill O'Brien's job is in danger. It's not just that he and GM Rick Smith supposedly don't get along. It's that he's a crappy coach. It's that he's some purported QB guru who is more interested in having shouting matches with his QB at halftime than he is in figuring out a working game plan. It's that this supposed offensive genius can't figure out a red zone offense (any coach who calls for the fade on fourth and goal at the one yard line deserves to be fired on the spot). And no, running J.J. Watt out of the backfield with Vince Wilfork as his blocking back isn't the sign of a visionary; it's the mark of an insane man who is in over his head.
The problems extend past O'Brien, however. There's a general manager who seems to keep his job primarily by being Bob McNair's seating buddy at the games. Rick Smith somehow escaped being fired with Gary Kubiak, though it was Smith who then, as now, assembled the roster. And while Bill O'Brien has lots of failings as a head coach (end of half/game strategy, clock management, red zone offense), he's not the one who put together the offensive line that can't block once it's inside the 20 yard line.
As long as this is Bob McNair's team, nothing will change. And why should McNair make changes? Every game is sold out. He's making tons of money off of the team and off of the NFL's television revenues. The team plays in the worst division of the NFL, so his team just needs to be able to hit 9-7 every year to be in the playoffs. Plus the fans and most of the media love him and fawn over every word he utters because he's the savior of football in Houston.
So being a 3.5 point favorite sounds just about right. The Texans likely won't score any touchdowns because the team only rarely scores touchdowns. But the Texans are playing a badly wounded team starting a rookie quarterback in his first-ever NFL start. Thus the Texans probably win this game by a score of 9-6 unless Brock Osweiler throws a pick six, in which case the Texans lose 13-9.