The long summer wait is finally over as NFL teams return to action for pre-season this week, starting with the Houston Texans traveling to face the New England Patriots.
The 2022 season was one to forget for both teams involved and they’ll be looking for a much better campaign in 2023, and this is the first chance to see what the team can potentially do this time around.
We’ll take a look at the match-up and what we can expect, while providing you with our best free NFL betting picks to see if we can earn you some extra cash while you watch the action.
NFL pre-season Houston Texans-135-135-135New England Patriots+110+110+110
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Houston Texans v New England Patriots information
Thursday, August 10th 2023
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
19:00 ET kick-off
Off-season so far
Houston, as the worst team in the league last season, should have one of the easier schedules, but road games in Baltimore and Jacksonville in the first three weeks mean the schedule is most definitely not as much of an advantage as is being made out.
Thursday night will be the league’s first look at new Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud, who the team selected with the second overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The former Ohio State signal caller put up some truly elite numbers in his two seasons as the team’s starter, amassing 8,123 yards, 85 scores, and just 12 interceptions in his 25 games for the Buckeyes.
On the other side of the field, Bill Belichick is back for another season as the head coach of the New England Patriots. The Patriots used their draft to strengthen their defensive unit by bringing in Marte Mapu, Keion White, and Christian Gonzalez in the first three rounds, and all will be playing defense.
The depth chart on offense starts with Mac Jones under center but moves to Bailey Zappe, then Trace McSorley. Fourth on the roster is former Louisville star Malik Cunnigham.
The Patriots added JuJu Smith-Schuster to the mix as a receiver, but guys like Kayshon Boutte, Demariou Douglas, and Tre Nixon will likely get looks here.
Damien Harris is gone, which leaves guys like Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris to back up Stevenson.
NFL picks: Back the Under
Targeting low-scoring games has been a great way to approach New England, especially since losing Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a few seasons ago. With Mac Jones still leading the helm, the priority is on the defense more than ever.
The Pats have had just one wide receiver eclipse 1,000 yards in the last five years. To delve even deeper into their scoring problems, they haven’t even had a 900-yard wide receiver in those seasons either.
Head coach Belichick is also one to prefer a stable of running backs, so they aren’t elite in that category either. The same can be said for the Houston Texans, as they’ve been one of the worst teams in the NFL since the last time QB Deshaun Watson took a snap for them.
That’s why they drafted QB CJ Stroud with the #2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, so expecting him to be ready against a Belichick defense is quite a big ask in his first pre-season game as an NFL player.
Even when Houston had more experienced options last season, they finished the year with just 289 points, tied for the second-fewest in the NFL. Expecting that to change in just one summer with a new coach who was previously a defensive coordinator is surely asking too much too quickly.
The under at this price looks good with a team focused on defensive plays and with an inexperienced quarterback making the calls under a new coach.
Under 38.5 points
Houston Texans v New England Patriots
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NFL picks: Back Texans to get it done
It’s unclear who will start for the Texans in the opener but the chances are it’ll likely either be C.J. Stroud or Davis Mills.
Stroud is the second overall pick and frontrunner to win the NFL Rookie of the Year. Meanwhile, Mills has solid experience in the NFL and still has the potential to do big things in the league for years to come.
You’d also have to imagine that John Metchie III gets some minutes in to become acclimatised with the NFL level defenses and get a feel for things.
Meanwhile, the Patriots will likely ride with Bailey Zappe to begin the game. Zappe earned snaps last season for the Patriots when they benched Mac Jones and he tends to go for more difficult options than necessary sometimes. That adds to the entertainment factor, but may cost his team vital points and possession if it isn’t coached out of him quickly.
The second half will almost certainly be Trace McSorley and Malik Cunningham. Cunningham is a terrific athlete, but whether or not his skills translate from college to the NFL remains to be seen.
While they’ll be on the road for this game, the Texans have got plenty to play for here and with the Patriots likely to do more experimenting during the four quarters on the field Houston are a good bet to get the win to kick off pre-season.
to beat New England Patriots
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