The second week of the NFL exhibition gives us a possible Super Bowl preview as the Houston Texans, looking to advance after their first-ever playoff appearance last season, host the San Francisco 49ers Saturday night at Reliant Stadium.
NFL preseason season-betting can be tough, what with
questionable motivations among the teams to win and sketchy reports as to who
will play and for how long, but we'll take a shot at this game, which would be
a doozy if played, say, this December.
Houston is coming off a 10-6 season, and made it to the AFC
divisional round of the playoffs, before losing at Baltimore. The Texans might
have made it further if not for injuries to their starting QB, leading rusher
and receiver and best defensive player.
But over the off-season the Texans took a hit when they lost
DE Mario Williams to free agency.
On the other side of this matchup, the Niners went from 6-10
to 13-3 last year, and got within a fumbled punt or so of winning the NFC in
their first season under Coach Harbaugh.
San Francisco opened this pre-season with a 17-6 victory
over Minnesota last week, rushing for 260 yards. The Niners suffered a scary
injury, though, when DE Aldon Smith, who registered 14 sacks last year as a
rookie, hurt a hip and had to be carted off the field. When we'll see him again
Houston, meanwhile, opened with a 26-13 win at Carolina,
rushing for 174 yards and holding the Panthers to 137 total yards of offense.
Houston is 13-11 SU and 13-8-3 ATS in exhibition seasons
under Coach Kubiak, while San Fran went 2-2 both SU and ATS last pre-season
under Coach Harbaugh.
Houston's QB rotation, after starter Matt Schwab, goes TJ
Yates, John Beck and rookie (and former Houston Cougar) Case Keenum.
We wonder if Kubiak won't give Keenum some field time
San Francisco's QB rotation, after starter Alex Smith, goes
Colin Kaepernick, Josh Johnson and Scott Tolzien.
Tolzien, a former Wisconsin Badger who won college
football's Unitas Award two years ago as the top senior quarterback in the
country, hit on 10 of 13 passes vs. Minnesota last week for 84 yards and a
Line and Trends
As of Thursday morning most NFL odds shops were listing
Houston as a three-point favorite for Saturday night's game, with an
'over/under' of 37.
5Dimes online sportsbook is offering +500 on Houston to win
the AFC and +1250 to win the Super Bowl, while San Francisco is getting +640 to
win the NFC and +1200 to win the Big One.
For those of you wanting to have some real fun with your NFL picks, 5Dimes is listing a price of +4550 on
an exact Niners-Texans Super Bowl 47 matchup.
Free NFL Pick
This is a tough one. Both teams made the playoffs last year,
so we can't say that both coaches have an all-out motivation to win these
exhibition games. They know what they've got, for the most part, and they've
already established a winning environment. So there's none of that
first-year-coach rah-rah stuff going on.
A lot of times these
games come down to who's got the better back-up quarterbacks. And at the moment
we'd have to go with Houston on that one, because both Yates and Beck have
started regular-season games, while only Johnson among the Niners back-ups has
done so. So we'll go with the Texans minus the field goal Saturday.
NFL Picks: Texans