How bad do oddsmakers expect the 2021 Houston Texans to be presumably without superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson? Houston has opened as a 1.5-point home underdog for Week 1 vs. Jacksonville, which was an NFL-worst 1-15 last season and enters on a franchise-record 15-game losing streak. Then again, the Jaguars do have Trevor Lawrence now.
Just two years ago, the Texans appeared on the rise under Watson. They won the AFC South for the second straight season in 2019, knocked off Buffalo in the wild-card round and gave eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City all it could handle for a half in the Divisional Round. However, entering the 2021 season, Watson's career in Houston may well be over and the Texans are an utter mess. William Hill Sportsbook gives them the lowest Over/Under win total in the NFL at 4.5, while the SportsLine Projection Model is only slightly more optimistic at 4.8 victories.
It would certainly be an upset if Watson plays anywhere this season with all the off-the-field issues hanging over his head. Even if Watson can settle all those civil lawsuits and avoid legal trouble, the NFL can still suspend him and almost surely will as the QB is toxic right now.
When the offseason began, the Texans might have been able to get four first-round picks in a trade for Watson when he demanded out. Currently, no team would offer a bag of balls for the reigning NFL passing yardage champion. Even if Watson is not suspended by some miracle, he might choose to sit out the season rather than play for Houston again.
Veteran journeyman Tyrod Taylor, he of 24-21-1 career mark as a starter, likely will be the starter under center to begin 2021. Houston didn't have a first- or second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and used its initial pick in Round 3 on Stanford QB Davis Mills. That says it all on whether the team ever expects Watson back. Mills was one a very highly touted recruit and has all the talent, but he barely played in college (11 starts) due to injuries. Former Bengals backup QB Ryan Finley is also on the roster.
SportsLine oddsmakers list Taylor as the -400 moneyline favorite to start Week 1 with Mills +500 and Finley +1000. Watson isn't a betting option.
Houston said goodbye to talented receiver Will Fuller in free agency and didn't do a heck of a lot addition-wise other than Taylor with a terrible salary-cap situation. The team's running back room will be interesting with David Johnson and free-agent additions Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay. All were good once.
No one is kidding themselves here. Houston is going to be awful in 2021 under first-year (unknown) coach David Culley and is the early favorite to land the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The SportsLine Projection Model only forecasts the Jets (4.6) with fewer wins, but New York's roster looks vastly more talented on paper. Houston may not be favored once all year.
The Texans' 2021 schedule is ranked as the 15th-toughest in the league as their 17 opponents – hosting the Panthers is the 17th game -- were a combined 137-135-0 last season.
Houston Texans trends/William Hill Sportsbook odds
- 2020 record: 4-12 (6-10 against the spread, 8-8 Over/Under)
- 2021 strength of schedule rank: 15th (opponents' combined winning percentage of .504)
- 2021 Over/Under win total: 4.5
- SportsLine Projection Model forecasted wins: 4.8
- Odds to win Super Bowl 56: +20000
- To win AFC: +8000
- To win AFC South: +2000
- To make playoffs: No -1100, yes +700
- NFL MVP odds: Deshaun Watson +2500
Houston Texans Schedule
Week 1 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Texans won third straight (2-1 ATS) at home in series last year 30-14
Week 2 at Cleveland Browns: Cleveland 0-6 ATS in past six meetings but did win last year 10-7 at home
Week 3 vs. Carolina Panthers (TNF): Added 17th opponent; the Panthers were known to covet Watson and still may
Week 4 at Buffalo Bills: First meeting since Houston's comeback wild-card home win following 2019 season
Week 5 vs. New England Patriots: Pats have lost SU & ATS in Houston each of past two seasons
Week 6 at Indianapolis Colts: Indy was -7.5 last year at home but didn't cover in 27-20 win
Week 7 at Arizona Cardinals: Teams have split four meetings SU and Texans are 3-1 ATS
Week 8 vs. Los Angeles Rams: Four all-time meetings and the Rams have covered spread in each (3-1 SU)
Week 9 at Miami Dolphins: Miami's only SU win in nine meetings was at home in 2015
Week 10 BYE
Week 11 at Tennessee Titans: Houston's lone SU win and cover in Nashville in past five was in 2019
Week 12 vs. New York Jets: New York has dropped past three in series, but they haven't played since 2018
Week 13 vs. Indianapolis Colts: The last time Indy lost ATS in Houston was, amazingly, 2012
Week 14 vs. Seattle Seahawks: Fifth all-time meeting and Texans have covered two of past three
Week 15 at Jacksonville Jaguars: Jags have dropped past three SU at home in series but covered last year
Week 16 vs. Los Angeles Chargers: Texans 1-6 ATS in past seven meetings but cover came in last meeting (2019)
Week 17 at San Francisco 49ers: Texans have failed to cover in four all-time meetings
Week 18 vs. Tennessee Titans: The Over is 5-0 in the past five meetings between the teams in Houston
Where does every player appear in our 2021 Fantasy football rankings? And which rookie quarterback will provide shocking value? Join SportsLine right now to get 2021 Fantasy football rankings, all from the model that simulated the entire season 10,000 times.