Betting tips for Thursday Night Football: Eagles at Texans

Week 9 of the NFL season gets started Thursday night with a matchup between the 7-0 Philadelphia Eagles (-14, 45) and a struggling 1-5-1 Houston Texans squad. The game certainly seems like a mismatch on the field, but it’s an entirely different story when it comes to potentially wagering on the game. So what can we like rom a betting standpoint for Thursday night’s game at NRG Stadium in Houston?

Betting analysts Doug Kezirian, Tyler Fulghum, Joe Fortenbaugh, Anita Marks and Erin Dolan; fantasy and sports betting analysts Eric Moody and Andre Snellings; and ESPN Stats & Information’s Seth Walder, ESPN analyst Jason Fitz and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz provide their top plays for the matchup.

Note: Lines from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise indicated.

The undefeated Eagles travel to Houston to face the struggling Texans. Per our ESPN Stats & Information Group, home underdogs of 12 or more points are 7-1 ATS over the last two years. Are you biting on the Texans to cover or laying the two TDs?

Kezirian: Trends like this are good for context, but I would not blindly bet something with an arbitrary cutoff of double digits. After all, we often discuss key numbers, so I believe that is more pertinent. For example, the numbers 14 and 10 do matter. We just saw that on Sunday night with Green Bay’s cover in Buffalo. I also think every season takes on an identity, and to me, this year we have three elite teams. Philly is one of them. So I do not really care that Tampa Bay could not cover double digits against Carolina. As for this game, I would certainly lay the points before I took them. The Eagles are that dominant, and I feel that prime time helps them avoid a flat spot against an inferior opponent.

Schatz: It’s hard to take Houston against Philadelphia, but that 14-point line is about a point too rich for my blood. The DVOA gap between these teams is gigantic, but it’s far from the biggest mismatch we’ve ever seen at this point in the season. I would prefer not to play this spread, but if I needed to, I would go with Houston.

Fortenbaugh: The side is a hard pass for me, which is the most pitiful answer possible. And I want to make it clear I know that. Because if you are reading this right now, you are thinking, “That’s really weak, Fortenbaugh.” I get it. But I’m not laying double digits on the road in the NFL on a Thursday night. And I’m not backing the Texans because they’re the Texans. Thank God for props!

Dolan: I am in agreement with Joe. I am staying away from the spread. The first-half spread entices me, but I do not like the number at 7.5 as of now. The Eagles have been great in the first half of games, leading the league with an average of 21 points scored and going 7-0 ATS. Then the Eagles fall off with an average of seven points in the second half. It’s a short week for both teams. The Eagles should roll. I just don’t feel comfortable laying two touchdowns.

Fitz: I’m actually with Doug on this one. The Texans aren’t just bad, they’re also easy to game plan against. The Titans took the Raiders’ rushing approach and put it into hyperdrive against this team last week, and it was so wildly successful we didn’t even realize that Malik Willis was essentially asked to do nothing in that game. Sure, large point spreads seem nerve wracking in the NFL, but in this instance this comes down to simple domination across the board. The Texans won’t be competitive in this game on either side of the ball. I expect the Eagles to cover.

Marks: The short work week will not matter Thursday night. I believe we are all in agreement that Philadelphia will roll. The Eagles’ defense got epically better with the addition of Robert Quinn, whereas the Texans are now dealing with a disgruntled WR in Brandin Cooks (because he was not traded), and Nico Collins is dealing with a groin injury. So Phillip Dorsett will potentially be Davis Mills’ top option in the passing game. Good luck with that. I don’t necessarily like laying double digits, so there’s a few ways I’m playing Eagles -3 first quarter (-120), Eagles -4 second quarter (-105), Eagles -7.5 first half (-110), Eagles over 29.5 points.

Snellings: Eagles -14. Short work weeks are tough on recovery and game planning, two elements that are a relative strength for the deep, in-form Eagles and a relative weakness for the Texans. As Fitz pointed out, planning for the Texans is simple because they are comically bad at defending the run (the Texans have allowed 147 more rushing yards than the team that has allowed the 31st-most rushing yards in the league, and that team, the Packers, has played a full extra game!). And the Eagles have one of the strongest multi-prong rushing attacks in the league. But, unlike the Titans last week, the Eagles also have a strong, multifaceted passing attack to act as a counter-move if the Texans try to sell out against the run. Just seems like a blowout waiting to happen. I’ll lay the points.

Moody: It’s hard to pick against Philadelphia in this game. The Eagles have been favored in every game this season, but this is their largest point spread. The Eagles rank third in total yards per game (395.4) and points scored per game (28.0). Even on a Thursday night, Philadelphia’s defense should be able to contain a Texans offense that may be without Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins. The Eagles are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven Thursday night games.

Jalen Hurts (+375) is the third betting favorite for NFL MVP. His props for TNF are 238.5 passing yards and 39.5 rushing yards. Are you playing either prop or Hurts for MVP?

Fulghum: I would play almost any rushing prop over the total against this Texans defense. They are allowing 186 rushing yards per game this season! I’ll take Hurts over 39.5 rush yards. He’s averaging 57.0 rush YPG on the road this season (three games).

Fortenbaugh: I’d look to an over on the passing prop before I played the over on the rushing prop. Houston has allowed only 97 rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks this season (eighth-fewest in the NFL) and just limited Malik Willis to 12 yards on five attempts. Not saying I would bet the under, I just wouldn’t make a big wager on the over, if at all.

Schatz: Yes, give me the over on the Hurts rushing prop as well. Houston has 19.0% run defense DVOA right now, which would be the worst ever measured if it held for the entire season. It probably won’t stay that bad all year, but Hurts should get some easy yardage on the Texans this week. I’m not a big fan of the Hurts MVP prop because I think narrative matters in MVP voting, and the narrative is much more that the Eagles are having team success while the Bills and especially the Chiefs are specifically driven by Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes.

Kezirian: I would not bet on Hurts to win MVP. I believe his only path is if the Eagles run the table at 17-0. Allen and Mahomes have shorter odds and one will likely win the award. They carry their teams, while the narrative of Hurts is that he is one of a few key factors to Philly’s success. He has been outstanding but is unlikely to win the MVP. The next question illustrates why +375 is not enough payout for me.

FItz: Quarterback overs on rushing props have done well for me all season, and this won’t be any different. As Tyler mentioned, the numbers make this one simple. The MVP numbers bets are a little tougher because it’s a subjective award typically awarded to the best quarterback on the best team. Allen and Mahomes have substantially more brand (and voter) momentum, so in my mind it would take not only a perfect season from Philly but also a slip-up somewhere else. Even think of how we cover the Eagles, Chiefs and Bills on ESPN — the conversation about Philly still leans to more about the overall talent helping Hurts than it does to Hurts helping them. It’s hard to change that mindset in a short amount of time.

Snellings: Hurts over 39.5 rushing yards; hold on MVP prop. As has been pointed out in various ways, the Texans’ rushing defense is woeful. And, unlike last week when they knew that Malik Willis would have trouble passing in his first NFL start, Hurts leads a dynamic passing attack that the Texans have to account for. I expect Hurts will be able to run early and often, should he so choose. The biggest worry to me is if the Eagles are handling the game so comfortably that Hurts decides there’s no point in risking himself for rushing yards to win the game. But my hope is that by the time the game might reach that point, he has already beyond the very reachable 39.5 rushing yards plateau.

As for MVP, I advocated betting on Hurts to win the award in the preseason and early on in the season when you could routinely get odds at 15-1 or greater. At +375, with strong competition from at least two others, I don’t see the value.

Moody: I would prioritize Hurts’ passing yards prop over his rushing yards prop. The Texans’ secondary has potential, but Hurts has even more potential to surpass 235.5 passing yards with the receiving playmakers at his disposal. He has surpassed his passing yards prop total in four out of seven games this season.

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Mercury Morris is probably not nervous yet, but Caesars has posted a 17-0 record for the Eagles at 11-1. Is it worth the price? If not, where do you see the first loss coming?

Schatz: I do think it’s time to start talking about this as a possibility, especially given how easy most of Philadelphia’s schedule is for the next two months. The Eagles’ chances of a 17-0 record just passed 5% in our playoff simulations at Football Outsiders. However, we have their odds now around 16-1, not 11-1. So this is not a good value. By far the most likely Philadelphia loss is Christmas Eve in Dallas, but subjectively I’m going to pick Green Bay in Week 12 as the first loss. The one Eagles weakness this season is run defense, and we just saw the Packers put over 200 rushing yards on the mighty Bills defense with their two running backs.


Kezirian: I would not blame anyone for grabbing 11-1 odds. I do not think there is value, but I also think they are a team that could swing it. Their unique offense and exceptional blocking is what makes it possible. I do think they could lose at Dallas in Week 16. Also, it’s worth noting that at the end of the 2007 season, the New England Patriots were squeaking out victories even though they were considerable favorites. The gas tank runs low, and you end up getting everyone’s best shot. Let that serve as a friendly reminder to just how difficult it is.

Marks: I placed this futures bet two weeks ago. The Eagles are all in. They have the best roster on paper and made their defense even better at the trade deadline with the addition of Quinn. Philadelphia’s biggest challenges will be one more matchup against the Cowboys and two against the Giants. Side note, you can also wager the Eagles not only go undefeated in the regular season but win the championship at 25-1. Yeah, I placed that as well. Fly Eagles fly!

Fitz: The playoff expansion actually makes something like this more attainable in my mind. In prior years a bye is a bye, but now that we’re in a system where only the top overall seed gets that advantage, the Vikings’ continued success becomes important for bettors hoping the Eagles will keep their foot on the gas. As for which game could trip them up, don’t sleep on the Titans and the way they run the ball. If Derrick Henry continues to play with this level of dominance, I wouldn’t count them out of any game.

Snellings: I don’t see the value at 11-1. I’m at the point where I’d entertain it as a possibility, but like Schatz I’d be looking for something closer to 20-1 at this point. The line is just too thin in the NFL. The Eagles already have close, three-point victories over the 1-6 Lions and the pre-DeAndre Hopkins Cardinals team this season. They still have the game in Dallas, the Titans, two games against the Giants and even matchups against the Saints or Packers that could, on any given Sunday, trip them up. I’m staying away.

Moody: I could see the Eagles losing on the road to the Giants in Week 14. New York would find great pleasure in ruining the Eagles’ perfect season, as division rivalries tend to bring out the best in those teams. The Giants could dominate time of possession by relying heavily on Saquon Barkley and the running game. New York ranks fifth in rushing attempts per game (32.9) and fourth in rushing yards per game (161.5). Philadelphia ranks first in time of possession, but the Giants rank third.

Are you playing anything else in this matchup?

Fulghum: If you missed it earlier, the Texans are allowing 186 rushing YPG this season. Eagles RB Miles Sanders is averaging 4.95 yards per rush this season and Philadelphia is a 14-point favorite. Like I said, I’ll take over rushing props against this defense every opportunity I get. Sanders over 80.5 rushing yards (-117).

Schatz: Houston’s defense ranks 28th in DVOA covering opposing No. 1 receivers, giving up an opponent-adjusted 83 yards per game, so I’ll take A.J. Brown over 68.5 receiving 3yards (-115).

Fortenbaugh: Davis Mills over 35.5 passing attempts (-117). As a 14-point underdog, it’s more than likely Houston is playing from behind in this game, meaning they’ll have to abandon the rushing attack and take to the skies, pretty much like every Philadelphia opponent so far this season. Through seven games, Philly is watching the opposition average an astounding 38.4 passing attempts per game. Additionally, opposing quarterbacks have eclipsed 35 passing attempts in six of seven contests this year, with the lone dissenter being the Jacksonville game that was played in a downpour.

Dolan: Sanders over 80.5 rushing yards (-117). The Texans ranks dead last against the run, allowing 186 rushing yards per game to opponents. Sanders has only hit over this mark in two of seven games this season, but he should feast against this Houston defense that just allowed Derrick Henry to go for 219 rushing yards on 32 carriers last week. The Eagles offense ranks sixth in rushing yards per game and will be one of the toughest offenses the Texans have faced.

Kezirian: I am playing the Eagles ATS in the first half. As Erin mentioned, the number of 7.5 is unappealing because it is two scores over two quarters. However, the Eagles are a perfect 7-0 ATS on the first-half line this season and it matches with their game plans. They want to blast opponents from the start to build a halftime lead and then bleed clock in the second half to protect that lead, which is why their tempo slows down in the second half. Houston has actually been a team that typically hangs around for a half and then loses late. But as I mentioned earlier, I see everything as case by case. The Texans have played close halves against mediocre teams. Philly is a different story.

Fitz: Give me the Sanders over 80.5 rushing yards (-117) all day. I’ll also take a paige out of Erin’s playbook and remind everyone that Davis Mills has thrown at least one pick in four of his last five games, so Mills to throw a pick feels right in this one as well. As Joe mentioned, I think Mills is going to throw a bunch, and that isn’t favorable in this one at all.

Snellings: Sanders over 91.5 total rushing/receiving yards; DeVonta Smith over 51.5 receiving yards. Like several of my colleagues, I like the Sanders over 80.5 rushing yards prop, but I’ll switch it up by going total yards instead. I think he may go over 91.5 yards with rushing alone, and this also gives leeway for if he pops a screen pass for a big gain. As for Smith, the Eagles’ receivers have tended to alternate big weeks this season. Smith has had two down weeks in a row, one before the bye and one after, and A.J. Brown is coming off a monster performance Sunday. I think this is Smith’s game to shine among the Eagles wideouts.

Marks: Philip Dorsett over 24.5 rec yards (-120) and A.J. Brown over 70.5 receiving yards (-115). As I mentioned earlier, Cooks is upset he didn’t get traded and is now “claiming” he has a wrist injury, and Collins is dealing with a groin injury. Who is Mills going to chuck the rock to? Yep, Dorsett. Jump on this ASAP before it goes up! As for Brown, he is an absolute stud, and there are very few in this league that can cover him. The Texans certainly don’t have anyone. Houston sports the second-most missed tackles in the league.

Moody: Dameon Pierce over 19.5 receiving yards (-119). Pierce is averaging 20.1 touches per game this season and has played a key role in the Texans’ offense. He is averaging 3.4 targets and 14.0 receiving yards per game so far this season. Pierce could, however, be utilized more in the passing game Thursday night given the uncertainty surrounding Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins.

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