Sep 21, 2018
Sep 21, 2018

NFL Week 3 preview: New York Giants at Houston Texans

Who will record their first win?

The key players

What do the stats suggest?

Where is the value?

NFL Week 3 preview: New York Giants at Houston Texans

The New York Giants travel to Houston to take on the Texans in the pick of this week’s NFL fixtures with both teams looking to record their first win of the season. Looking for value in the NFL Week 3 odds? Read on to inform your NFL Week 3 predictions.

Week three may be early in the season to suggest that a side’s season is on the line, but the historical precedent for a team who begins the season 0-3 is rather bleak.

Fewer than three in every hundred 0-3 teams make it to the post season and you need to go back to Doug Flutie’s 1998 Buffalo Bills to find the most recent example.

Of course, win/loss record is a crude way to evaluate a team after just three games, particularly as the 1998 Buffalo team suffered three narrow defeats prior to their turnaround.

But giving divisional rivals potentially a three-game start in a short 16-match season is less than ideal.

NFL Week 3 predictions: Who will record their first win?

Two 0-2 sides, one of which will almost certainly find themselves at 0-3 going into week 4, meet on Sunday, when the AFC south’s Houston Texans entertain the NFC east’s New York Giants in their home opener.

The visiting Giants and current 14th seed out of 16 in the NFC and were unconsidered in a division that contains the reigning Super Bowl champions, but Houston (current 15th seed) will be hugely disappointed to have ceded a two-game start to Jacksonville in the south having vied for pre-season favoritism with the Jags.

Superficially, the early optimism behind the 2018 Texans may appear misplaced.

Their 4-12, 2017 record pales beside that of their main divisional rivals, the Jags who made it all the way to the AFC Championship game.

The historical precedent for a team who begins the season 0-3 is rather bleak.

But there were many positives that usually result in an improved subsequent season.

Houston’s record in close games was unfortunate, they lost four such contests, winning just once.

Their Pythagorean was closer to a six win team, rather than just four and they also had only the 28th best turnover differential, giving up 12 more possessions than they took away from their opponents.

Each of these metrics typically regress towards less extreme levels in the future and in doing so are also usually associated with an improved win/loss record. However, the most telling reason for Houston’s disappointing 2017 season was again due to injuries to both sides of the ball.

NFL Week 3 odds: The key players

Three time NFL Defensive Player of the year, JJ Watt again spent the majority of the season on the sidelines, having been an ever present from 2011 to 2015.

An average of 15 sacks per season has fallen to just 1.5 in total since 2016 and although he was fit to start the 2018 campaign, he is now 29 and only has eight completed games in the previous two years.

Watt’s return, welcome though it is, has been over shadowed by that of starting quarterback, Deshaun Watson.

An ACL injury also restricted Watson’s appearances to seven matches, but his performances were spectacular.

Both with his arm and his mobility, Watson helped the Texans to outscore the defences he faced by nearly 10 full points, compared to average expectations.

Aerially, he threw nearly two yards per attempt further than the par efficiency values allowed by the pass defences.

And although there was a rookie tendency to throw picks and with the obvious caveat that seven games is a relatively small sample size, he may well be the vanguard of the young quarterbacks who must soon displace the ageing, but still effective talent in the current NFL.

With Watson under center, Houston were a formidable offense through the air, backed up by a solid, league average running game and the ability to turn efficient yardage into points on the board.

Defensively, with Watson on the team, they struggled to contain opposing quarterbacks, allowing 15% more yardage per attempt than the seven opposing passers achieved on average over the season.

The ground defense was above average and in their first seven games and Houston overall ceded 4.5 points per game more than par.

The most telling reason for Houston’s disappointing 2017 season was again due to injuries to both sides of the ball.

This also resulted in a raft of high scoring shootouts, Watson’s final five matches averaged 69 total points per game.

If Watson is at one end of his career arc, the New York Giant’s Eli Manning is slipping into inevitable retirement, with little indication that his side has a plan to manage his departure. Manning’s passing efficiency per attempt was just 88% of the average allowed by the 16 teams the Giants faced in 2017.

NFL Week 3 odds: Where is the value?

There was little help from a below par ground game and they scored six fewer points per game than their opponents typically allowed.

Defensively, they were below par both in terms of points allowed and yardage per play allowed, both on the ground and through the air.

The Giant’s Pythagorean was worth four, rather than three wins, they too were unfortunate in narrowly decided matches, winning just one and losing five.

Matchups strongly favour Houston to kick start their season.

Even if we assume that Watson’s arm would have cooled over a full season, the Texans should still be able to pass extremely efficiently, whereas the Giants would need the home team’s passing defense to perform to similarly poor levels to last season to break par.

The Giants have upgraded their ground game and have expensively retained ability downfield, but quarterback remains an unaddressed problem and Houston are taken to win by a touchdown, with total points in the mid forties.

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