NFL Pick: 2023 Houston Texans Under 6.5 Wins (-143) at BetRivers
While it felt like the Houston Texans took a couple of gap years from competing for anything in 2021-22, they can now proudly say they have a vision and plan for their future. They may even have an identity again for their football team after putting the Deshaun Watson era behind them.
But after an exciting coaching hire and bold draft, the Texans still have their work cut out for them in 2023 despite playing in one of the weakest divisions: the AFC South. The top online sportsbooks do not see a real contender yet as Houston’s over/under win total is just 6.5 wins.
We look at the team’s big moves and if this can spark a surprisingly good debut season for rookie coach DeMeco Ryans.
A new coach, a new quarterback, and a new pass rusher. This is the new era in Houston, but will it last?
DeMeco Ryans Is a Smart Hire
There is a growing feeling that teams should hire offensive coaches instead of defensive coaches to take full advantage of the way the NFL is today. Hiring an old-school defensive-minded coach is the worst mistake a team could make, and that is why Houston hiring Lovie Smith in 2022 always felt like a dead man walking situation.
But hiring DeMeco Ryans feels very smart for Houston. Ryans is only 39 years old and he just spent the last 6 seasons building his resume in San Francisco for Kyle Shanahan, moving up to defensive coordinator the last 2 years and having great success.
Ryans also was a former Pro Bowl linebacker for the Texans, so there is a personal connection that will make him want to do well with this job. Also, he made a wise choice to give a Shanahan assistant from San Francisco, Bob Slowik, a chance to coordinate this Houston offense. Slowik has been working with the Shanahan coaching family since 2011, and he was the passing game coordinator for the 49ers last year when Brock Purdy threw multiple touchdowns every week as Mr. Irrelevant.
Ryans and Slowik face a huge drop in talent coming from San Francisco to Houston, but they have the right stuff mentally to build this up as the team acquires more blue-chip talent and creates star players.
Can C.J. Stroud Break the Ohio State Curse?
With the No. 2 pick in the draft, the Texans selected quarterback C.J. Stroud. In 2 seasons at Ohio State, Stroud passed for 85 touchdowns to 12 interceptions. He completed 69.3% of his passes and averaged 9.8 yards per attempt in replacing Justin Fields in 2021.
So far, Fields has not been a good passer at all in Chicago, and he is only 5-20 as a starter. It has continued the so-called “curse” of poor NFL careers for Ohio State quarterbacks.
The school should not really dictate the NFL performance, because we see Ohio State produce stars at plenty of other positions. But the receiver talent Stroud enjoyed in college will unlikely be at his disposal this year in Houston. The team let go a speedster like Brandin Cooks, and they will roll with a trio of Nico Collins, John Metchie, and Robert Woods. They also added tight end Dalton Schutlz from Dallas, who could be the team’s best tight end in a long time.
It is far from the worst receiving corps a high draft pick has ever started with. But it does not look like one that will lead to a very effective offense in 2023.
Staying In the Pocket
Stroud is also going to have to show us how he uses mobility at the pro level. He rarely ever scrambled in college, and that has become a big part of today’s NFL. Stroud is not likely to run wild like Anthony Richardson is expected to do for the Colts. He also may have gone No. 2 behind Bryce Young because he does not improvise and create pass plays on the run the way Young did at Alabama.
You could find some draft experts who believe Stroud is going to be the best quarterback in this draft class. At the very least, he is a safer pick than Richardson or anyone else the Texans would have taken high.
The Bold Trade on Draft Night
In a rare twist of fate, the Texans walked out of the draft with the No. 2 and No. 3 picks, taking what many consider a top 2 quarterback and the best pass rusher in the draft (Will Anderson).
If these players are both studs for the Ryans era, then no one in their right mind can really criticize this draft. It will be the turning point for this team becoming a factor. However, if there is disappointment here, especially from Anderson, then this draft trade will be heavily scrutinized and rightfully so.
The Texans gave up a lot to get Anderson. To move from No. 12 to No. 3, they had to give up the No. 33 pick, a 1st-round pick in 2024 that will probably be very high, and a 3rd-round pick in 2024 too. That is a steal for anyone to take in a move that reeks of desperation.
Is Anderson going to be as good as J.J. Watt? Probably not. Is he going to outdo Mario Williams, Houston’s 2006 No. 1 overall pick who had 53 sacks in 6 seasons with the team? Let’s hope so.
This was a bold move that for better or worse will likely define the Ryans era.
2023 Schedule Analysis
Unless Jacksonville implodes in 2023, the Texans are probably not competing for the AFC South division title just yet. This team can double its win total to finish 6-11 and still finish under 6.5 wins.
If you check out the schedule, 6-11 seems rather fair. You have to figure the Colts are ripe for a win or two for this team, especially after what happened last year. The Texans could even get 3 wins from the division this year.
But in non-division games, you are hoping the Texans can beat the Cardinals (Week 11) and Buccaneers (Week 9), projected to be the worst teams, at home. Maybe winning in Carolina (Week 8) is a possibility too if that is the first matchup between Stroud and Young.
But even if these games go well, that is still 6-11 and under. The Texans may be on the right path, but things were so poor in recent years (11-38-1 since 2020) that there will be growing pains and baby steps to fixing this program. This team should not just jump to 10 or 11 wins overnight.
For now, stick with the under for your NFL ATS bets.
NFL Pick: 2023 Houston Texans Under 6.5 Wins (-143) at BetRivers
2022 Recap: Lovie’s Parting Gift to Chicago
It never felt like the Texans were seriously competing in their division last season. Hiring Lovie Smith as head coach and giving Davis Mills another 15 starts at quarterback confirms this was an unserious season of football.
To Houston’s credit, this team competed hard most weeks and did not get blown out that frequently despite the poor 3-13-1 record. Even when the Eagles were rolling at 7-0, the best they could do in Houston was a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter.
You know it was a bad season when the highlight was a December run that saw the team go 1-3. But the Texans at least made Deshaun Watson look poor in his debut game with Cleveland following his suspension for sexual misconduct. The Texans still lost the game thanks to allowing 3 return touchdowns, but at least they held Watson’s offense out of the end zone.
A week later, Houston almost shocked the Cowboys in Dallas despite being a 17-point favorite. The Texans had a chance to take a 2-score lead in the fourth quarter but botched the play. The defense allowed Dak Prescott to drive 98 yards for a game-winning touchdown drive in a tough loss.
Not to be outdone, the Chiefs were a 14.5-point favorite a week later in Houston. The Texans made life very hard on them too, forcing the Chiefs to come back in the fourth quarter to force overtime. But the Chiefs won that game in the end too.
Giving Up the #1 Spot
At 1-12-1, the Texans managed to beat the Titans after a game-winning drive by Mills. Surprisingly, it would not be the final game-winning drive of his Houston career. In Week 18, Mills threw a touchdown with 50 seconds left against the Colts, and Lovie Smith had the team go for 2 and the lead. It worked out and the Texans beat the Colts 32-31. They had a 20-20 overtime tie with the Colts to begin the season.
But by coming back to beat Indy in the final game to finish 3-13-1, the Texans gave up the No. 1 pick in the draft to Chicago (3-14). Depending on the draft class, this could be a catastrophic way to end your season. But what it ultimately did was deny the Texans the chance to draft Bryce Young from Alabama.
We will see if they are happy with their decision to settle for C.J. Stroud.