Mercilus (59) and the Texans' pass rush will look to make life miserable for Drew Lock, as they did for Tom Brady.
Mercilus (59) and the Texans' pass rush will look to make life miserable for Drew Lock, as they did for Tom Brady.
Photo by Eric Sauseda

NFL Week 14: Texans-Broncos — Four Things To Watch For (and Best Bets)

If the 2019 NFL season were the SAT test, it would be pretty easy to predict the outcome of Sunday's Week 14 game between the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos. In a results-based oddity, here's how things have gone for the Texans thus far in 2019. See if you notice the SAT-style pattern developing:

WEEK 1: LOSS at NOLA, 30-28
WEEK 2: WIN vs JAC, 13-12
WEEK 3: WIN at LAC, 27-20
WEEK 4: LOSS vs CAR, 16-10
WEEK 5: WIN vs ATL, 53-32
WEEK 6: WIN at KC, 31-24
WEEK 7: LOSS at IND, 30-23
WEEK 8: WIN vs OAK, 27-24
WEEK 9: WIN at JAC, 26-3 (London)
(WEEK 10: BYE)
WEEK 11: LOSS at BAL, 41-7
WEEK 12: WIN vs IND, 20-17
WEEK 13: WIN vs NE, 28-22
WEEK 14: ????

It doesn't take a genius to figure out the pattern, which makes this game coming against Denver, 4-8 and in a full-on rookie QB rebuild mode, a little, just a LITTLE, harrowing. In fact, let's start there. The pattern above is more of a strange anomaly. The actual meat and potatoes that are making me nervous about this game are less random.

4. Letdown potential
Prior to the win last weekend over the Patriots, there have been three points in this season where public confidence in the Texans spiked following their performance. Oddly enough, in Week 1, people were more bought in on the Texans following a close loss to the Saints on a Monday Night. After Week 3, the win in Los Angeles over the Chargers elicited major confidence. Finally, after the Week 6 win in Kansas City, some fans were talking Super Bowl. Here is the problem — the Texans followed each of those wins with three of their worst performances of the season:

WEEK 2: 13-12 win over Jacksonville (Garnder Minshew's first start)
WEEK 4: 16-10 home loss to Carolina (Kyle Allen starting QB)
WEEK 7: 30-23 loss in Indy

Hopefully, the effect of beating the Patriots is more of a buoyant effect than a letdown-inducer, and to be clear, I am picking the Texans to win this game —- they're just that much better than the Broncos, especially at home — but it wouldn't shock me if the Broncos hung around in this one. Especially if....

3. How about a first drive TD?
.... the Texans get off to their usual slow start. Until the Texans actually score a touchdown on an opening drive, you can count on their first drive performance, or lack thereof, being a topic. Here are the numbers following a three-and-out to open the game against the Pats:

This might be the most shocking statistical fact associated with the 2019 Houston Texans. I mean, this is an 8-4 team with Deshaun Watson as the quarterback, and a dozen opening drives have yielded as many turnovers as points.

2. Reunion time! Roby and Kareem....
It wasn't an actual trade, but functionally Bradley Roby and Kareem Jackson swapped spots in the 2019 offseason, with Roby leaving Denver for a one year, $10 million "prove it" deal with the Texans, and Jackson leaving for Denver after a nine year run with the Texans, grabbing a three year, $33 million deal. When healthy, Roby has been outstanding for the Texans, to the point where I have to imagine locking him up to a long-term deal is a priority for Bill O'Brien and the GM crew. Jackson has also drawn rave reviews from the Broncos, making the full time move to safety while mixing in some slot corner play. Both guys should come into this game with a chip on their shoulder, Roby because the Broncos chose to let him walk for a one year deal, and Jackson because the Texans didn't even make him a contract offer, reportedly. This is a fun, juicy subplot to whatever is happening on the scoreboard.

1. Romeo versus rookies
Perhaps the strongest handicap in favor of the Texans for this game is Romeo Crennel's record as the team's defensive coordinator against rookie quarterbacks, a cumulative record of 11-1. Here is the breakdown:

2014, WEEK 2: at OAK (WIN, 30-14)
2014, WEEK 8: at TEN (WIN, 30-16)
2014, WEEK 13: vs TEN (WIN, 45-21)
2014, WEEK 14: at JAC (WIN, 27-13)
2014, WEEK 17: vs JAC (WIN, 23-17)
2015, WEEK 3: vs TB (WIN, 19-9)
2016, WEEK 3: at NE (LOSS, 27-0)
2018, WEEK 6: vs BUF (WIN, 20-13)
2018, WEEK 13: vs CLV (WIN, 29-13)
2018, WEEK 15: at NYJ (WIN, 29-22)
2019, WEEK 2: vs JAC (WIN, 13-12)
2019, WEEK 9: at JAC (WIN, 26-3)

Broncos rookie QB Drew Lock is a talented second round pick, who may or may not be the future in Denver. He will have his hands full with a Texans defense that seems to be finding its identity, post the J.J. Watt pectoral tear.

SPREAD: Texans -9
PREDICTION: Texans 21, Broncos 13

On a busy week, here quickly are the six games I'm on this weekend

FALCONS -3 over Panthers
Ravens -5.5 over BILLS
PACKERS -13 over Redskins
BUCCANEERS -3 over Colts
RAIDERS +2.5 over Titans

SEASON NFL ATS RECORD: 37-41 (47.4 percent)

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.

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