San Diego Chargers (4-6) at Houston Texans (6-4)
Outlook: We have reached week 12 and the Texans are still undefeated at home. They have survived a couple of close calls in that span and face a team in the Chargers that are more dangerous than people realize. Still, despite the loss there was a lot to like about the Texans performance on Monday night. Brock Osweiler looked capable, which has been a rare sight this season, Lamar Miller got over 100 on the ground and the defense played well overall. In 2015 the Chargers had one of the worst run defenses in the league, but that has been shored up this season, largely because of the addition of Brandon Mebane. However, Mebane is now out for the season, which means Miller should be able to find more running room. San Diego has had a pedestrian pass defense this season, so Osweiler should have some chances to get the ball to DeAndre Hopkins and the others. The defense is going to be tested by Philip Rivers, who’s having another great year, and Melvin Gordon, who is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards.
The Chargers have a losing record but are not anywhere close to as bad as it suggests. Rivers is fifth in the league with 20 touchdown passes (eclipsing 20 TD passes for the 11th straight year) and fourth in passing yards. He has done this despite having Tyrell Williams as his #1 receiver. It has also helped that Melvin Gordon has broken out in his second year, and he might have a chance to make some plays as a runner and receiver. Defensively Joey Bosa has shown flashes of brilliance, but overall the unit has not played well enough to win. The Chargers have been in nine one possession games this season, with a 3-6 record in such games. They found ways to blow what looked like certain wins at the Chiefs, against the Saints and at the Raiders–they truly are one of the best 58 minute teams in the league. Their playoff hopes are gone as they trail in the wild card race by three games and the division by four, so they truly have nothing to lose, making them dangerous.
What’s astonishing is that the Chargers have a +14 point differential while the Texans are at -34; despite being two games better in the standings. I suppose that can be considered a product of the schedule/division or just some bad luck on the part of the Chargers. One other factor that is going in the Chargers favor is that they will be rested after their bye week last week while the Texans will be on a short week after the freak show in Mexico City on Monday night. I think this game could go either way, but considering the Texans home cooking and the Chargers propensity for blowing close games, I’m riding with the Texans.
Prediction: Texans 24, Chargers 20