Houston Texans at San Diego Chargers (+3.5, 44.5)
The Houston Texans are taking the Super Bowl-or-bust approach while the San Diego Chargers are entering a rebuilding phase under first-year coach Mike McCoy. The Texans open the season against the host Chargers on the Monday night stage and believe last season’s franchise-best 12-4 record – and a playoff victory for the second straight campaign – has set the state for a deep postseason run. San Diego has missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
Houston signed perennial Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed as a free agent to shore up the back end and he is a game-time decision after having offseason hip surgery. Defensive end J.J. Watt racked up a league-leading 20 1/2 sacks last season in a stellar performance that earned him NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors. The Chargers cleaned house after last season’s disappointing showing by firing coach Norv Turner and general A.J. Smith and hiring McCoy and new general manager Tom Telesco.
TV: 10:20 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE: The Texans opened as 3-point road faves which has been bet up to 3.5.
WEATHER: Temperatures will be in the low-70s with partly cloudy skies in San Diego. Wind will blow from the W towards the east end zone at 6 mph.
ABOUT THE TEXANS (2012: 12-4, first AFC South): Inside linebacker Brian Cushing is healthy after suffering a season-ending knee injury early last season and Houston recently rewarded him with a six-year, $55.6 million extension. The Texans allowed 225.8 passing yards per game in 2012 and the belief is that Reed’s ball-hawking presence should further bolster a unit that ranked seventh in total defense (323.3). Quarterback Matt Schaub topped 4,000 passing yards for the third time in four seasons and Andre Johnson (112 receptions for a career-best 1,598 yards) surpassed 1,500 yards for the third time in his stellar career. Running back Arian Foster (1,424 yards, 15 touchdowns) has been bothered by back and calf woes in training camp and could be spelled by Ben Tate.
ABOUT THE CHARGERS (2012: 7-9, second AFC West): Quarterback Philip Rivers has been turnover-prone the past two seasons with 47 miscues (35 interceptions, 12 lost fumbles) and his 3,606 passing yards last season represented his lowest output since 2007. Injury-prone Ryan Mathews (707 yards) is the prime running back and top wideout Malcom Floyd (56 receptions) missed most of the preseason with a knee injury. Safety Eric Weddle (team-high 111 tackles) is one of the best at his position and the leader of a defense that is being rebuilt. The Chargers are hoping veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney (107.5 career sacks) has something left in the tank.
* The Texans are 0-5 ATS in their last five Monday games.
* The Chargers are 0-4 ATS in their last four home games.
* The under is 14-6 in the Chargers last 20 home games.
* The Texans are 0-4 ATS in their last four meetings.
1. San Diego has won all four previous meetings, the most recent being a 29-23 victory in Houston in 2010.
2. The Texans were 7-0 last season when Foster rushed for 100 or more yards.
3. Rivers was sacked a league-high 49 times last season and fumbled 15 times, losing seven.