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Divisional Round Picks

Welcome to the Thursday Night Football betting breakdown, where each week I’ll provide a detailed betting overview of the upcoming Thursday Night Football game utilizing moneyline, points spread and projected total odds from DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook. I’ll also highlight at least one player- or game-based prop each week that I feel has profit potential.

The long-awaited 2020 NFL season-opening rematch of January’s AFC divisional-round clash between the Houston Texans and Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs unfolds Thursday. The contest features two of the league’s most dynamic, and as of this summer, well-paid quarterbacks — both DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes will begin their quest to justify their recently signed, massive contract extensions in this showdown.

All betting takes will be classified as a “pick”, with considerations such as relevant injuries, past betting trends and recent performances of each team leading up to the game factoring in.

For more detailed information on this week’s matchup – including further game analysis, betting trends breakdown, betting tips specific to TNF, and a synopsis of the history of the line movement for the game, please see our Thursday Night Football Betting Preview over at TheLines.

Chiefs vs. Texans odds

Moneyline

The defending-champion Chiefs will kick off a unique 2020 season with just 16,000 fans packed into 76,416-seat Arrowhead Stadium. The reduced capacity is one of several factors that makes this contest intriguing and could help keep it closer than the oddsmakers seem to expect.

One of the many unusual aspects of this year’s NFL calendar is the complete lack of official on-field OTAs, training camp scrimmages between teams and preseason games. This year’s Week 1 contests mark the first time teams have a chance to lay the wood on someone outside their locker room. As such, offensive efficiency could be lacking early.

The two teams met twice last season, with Houston notching a 31-24 win in Week 6 at Arrowhead. DeShaun Watson threw for 280 yards while spreading the ball around to seven different pass catchers. He added 42 rushing yards and a pair of scores on the ground, including a game-winning TD with 8:43 remaining. Houston held Patrick Mahomes to a 56.0 QBR and a season-low 54.3 percent completion rate.

Mahomes and KC subsequently throttled the Texans, 51-31, in the AFC divisional round. Nevertheless, it was just a 41-31 game entering the fourth quarter. Moreover, the Chiefs had even more trouble with Watson in that contest. They allowed him to throw for 388 yards and score three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing).

Both squads have new pieces at key positions on the offensive side of the ball. The Chiefs’ one main newcomer is talented rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire. With Super Bowl LIV hero Damien Williams opting out of the 2020 season, the LSU product opens the season atop the depth chart.

Meanwhile, the Texans are now without franchise stalwart DeAndre Hopkins, having traded him to the Cardinals this offseason. They’ll attempt to replace Hopkins’ 104-1,165-7 line across 15 games last season with a pair of veterans in Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks. Both offer plenty of speed and quickness. Yet, they’re not close to the caliber of receiver Hopkins is at this stage of their respective careers. Neither has the reputation for making the difficult catch in traffic Hopkins was so adept at. That responsibility may now frequently fall to the talented but oft-injured Will Fuller.

RB David Johnson came over in the Hopkins trade and will attempt to resurrect a once-promising career in Houston. He arrives with plenty of question marks after averaging just 3.6 yards per carry over the last three seasons. The first matchup of his Texans career won’t be easy — the KC defense progressively tightened up against the run as the regular season unfolded last year and allowed just 87 yards on the ground per game over their final three contests.

Although home-field edge won’t be the same with Arrowhead at quarter capacity, I still see the Chiefs emerging with a victory, albeit a closer one than oddsmakers project.

The Pick: Chiefs moneyline (-420 or better)

Point Spread

The Mahomes-era Chiefs have a well-earned reputation as an offensive powerhouse that can significantly outpace its opponents. However, while they were ranked near the top of the league in average margin of victory, KC’s figure of 8.9 points in that category checks in just below Thursday’s spread.

The Texans were 7-8-1 (46.7 percent) against the spread last regular season, including 4-3-1 (57.1 percent) as an away team.

The Chiefs were 10-5-1 (66.7 percent) against the spread last regular season, but 4-3-1 (57.1 percent) as a home team.

As the numbers cited above indicate, Houston was solid against the number last season for a road team. Meanwhile, KC’s performance versus the spread was a bit more underwhelming for a home squad. Additionally, the Chiefs’ first three home wins last season came by seven points or fewer — with Mahomes playing two of those games – and another was by 10 points.

The Lean: Texans +9 or better

Over/Under (Total)

A particularly elevated total, the somewhat muted home-field edge and the fact six of the Chiefs’ regular-season home games in 2019 finished under Thursday’s projected tally all give me reason to consider the Under.

The Over was 7-9 (43.8 percent) in the Texans’ regular-season games in 2019, while the Over was 8-8 in the Chiefs’ regular-season games in 2019.

The total will allow for the Chiefs to put up their typical allotment of points and the Texans to score their fair share as well while keeping this game close. However, I see enough lack of overall cohesion brought about by the absence of preseason games to allow the Under to prevail.

The Pick: Under 54.5 points or better

Best TNF Prop Bet

Chiefs to win by 1-6 points

The Chiefs’ reduced home-field advantage could help the Texans’ cause. The psychological benefit of their aforementioned regular-season win at Arrowhead last season may also serve as an important intangible. KC’s regular-season average home scoring margin of +6.1 points last season also catches my eye. So, too, does the fact two of Houston’s three road losses were by seven and two points, the latter in the opener against the Saints in the Superdome in Week 1.