ESPN 97.5 Houston's Patrick Creighton takes a closer look at the 2023 Houston Texans, a team some believe is on the rise this season, including four best bets.
By Patrick Creighton
ESPN 97.5 Houston
2023 Houston Texans - Betting Opportunities
Coming off a disastrous season, the Houston Texans made wholesale changes to their organization. Former 49ers defensive coordinator and Texans star DeMeco Ryans takes over as the new head coach, and brings former fellow 49ers coach Bobby Slowik with him to run the offense.
After failing miserably in his second season with the team, QB Davis Mills will be replaced. Houston drafted Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud with the second overall pick. While the team is publicly stating there will be a quarterback competition, reality is there is no competition, and the job will belong to Stroud. Every primary player has already expressed publicly they consider Stroud QB1, and Pro Bowl OT Laremy Tunsil has been the most vocal. Tunsil has even posted on Instagram a photo of him and Stroud with the caption “QB1”. Make no mistake, while the Texans play the game of competition, there is no competition. The job will be Stroud’s, and that is a huge positive for Houston.
The Texans gave big money extensions to their bookend tackles Laremy Tunsil and Tytus Howard. Together, they form a top-six tackle tandem. The Texans interior line struggled last season, and the team invested in upgrades. They traded for and then extended OG Shaq Mason, and spent a second-round pick on Penn State C Juice Scruggs, who is considered the favorite to be the starter. Second-year OG Kenyon Green is also expected to make forward strides after getting stronger following an inconsistent rookie year. Houston made the investment to protect their prized rookie quarterback.
The Texans also improved the running game by signing former Bills RB Devin Singletary to complement 2022 fourth-round pick Dameon Pierce, who has established himself as RB1 and one of the most physical backs in the NFL. The two have very different styles and should form an excellent tandem. Houston was unable to run the ball with anyone besides Pierce last season, and that should change in a significantly positive way this season.
Houston also signed former Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz, who will be the team’s best tight end since Owen Daniels. Schultz will provide the security blanket that a rookie quarterback needs.
While the Texans did not add what could be considered a true WR1, veteran Robert Woods will provide a steady and reliable presence. John Metchie III has looked tremendous in camp after missing his rookie season last year due to leukemia, and 2023 third-round pick Tank Dell has already shown precise route running as well. Metchie and Dell could be impact players for Houston, and Metchie could very well lead the team in receptions. WR Nico Collins faces a make-or-break season in his third year, to prove whether or not he can fulfill the past promise of a WR1. Collins has strong athleticism but has struggled to stay on the field.
The defense will benefit greatly from the addition of DE Will Anderson, chosen with the third overall pick. Anderson has looked very impressive in training camp and gives the Texans a legitimate pass rusher opposite veteran Jerry Hughes (9 sacks in 2022). The addition of LB Denzel Perryman, CB Shaquill Griffin and SS Jimmie Ward will add improved play and veteran leadership to a defense with young playmakers like FS Jalen Pitre, CB Derek Stingley Jr. and LB Christian Harris. The presence of a top defensive coordinator in Ryans taking over as head coach should also be a benefit to this young and improving unit.
What does all this mean for bettors? It means I don’t buy a lot of the national narrative that the Texans will be a 4-win team. This was a 4-win team in 2022 despite being absolutely abysmal on offense, and that included the team choking away 3 straight wins to open the season. It also means there is some value on the Texans because the perception of the team is very negative.
I expect the Texans to be a 7-8 win team (remember, it’s a 17 game season) with their improved roster and coaching staff, combined with the regression of the Tennessee Titans and the regression/turmoil of the Indianapolis Colts. The AFC South may be the weakest division in the NFL, and an improving Texans team playing a last-place schedule should be worth that win range. Texans over 5.5 is a solid play on win total.
As far as individual players, John Metchie at +3000 for Comeback Player of the Year is a nice value bet. He could very well lead the team in receptions and yards, and coming back from missing his entire rookie season from cancer will be a tremendous story.
C.J. Stroud should be able to hit the over on 3,175 yards passing. Davis Mills was absolutely brutal last season, and still managed 3,118 yards in 15 games behind a weaker offensive line and with worse receiving options. Stroud was the most polished passer in the draft, and barring significant injury he should reach that level even for a Texans team that wants to run the ball.
Will Anderson is the betting favorite to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year, and in some places is going for +500. Texans coaches cannot stop raving about him in camp. Houston gave up a ton to move back up to three in the draft to select him, but he may be the defensive star they’ve been looking for.
Dameon Pierce should be a lock for over 4.5 TDs, and this is still a bet I like at over 5.5. Pierce is a battering ram and will get no shortage of goal line carries.
Patrick Creighton's Best Bets:
Texans OVER 5.5 wins
CJ Stroud OVER 3,175 yards passing
Will Anderson Defensive ROY +500
Dameon Pierce over 4.5 TDs