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NFL picks, Week 9: What to make of Texans with Deshaun Watson out

So much for the story about the teams that regret passing on Deshaun Watson or are getting hammered by their fan bases for passing on Watson. (Browns, Jets, Jaguars, Bears and 49ers in that order, for what it’s worth.)

Even with Jimmy Garoppolo getting traded from the Patriots to the 49ers, Watson was the hottest quarterback story in the NFL. The rookie from Clemson, drafted 12th overall by the Texans, set an NFL record with 19 touchdown passes in his first seven games, eclipsing Hall of Famer Kurt Warner’s 18 in 1999.

Regardless of the circumstances with the Texans, Watson’s immediate success was making a lot of quarterback-needy teams look bad — including the Bears, who could have drafted Watson with the No. 3 pick and not traded three draft picks to the 49ers to move up one spot for Mitch Trubisky.

Best bet
COLTS AT TEXANS
Time: Noon.  Line: Texans by 7. Total: 46.
Records (overall/ATS): Colts 2-6/4-4; Texans 3-4/5-2.

Injured Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. | Jason E. Miczek/AP

All that conjecture and debate is on hold now after Watson reportedly suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in one of his knees in practice Thursday. He likely is out for the season.

That doesn’t change too many big-picture what-ifs. It’s not like Watson might not have suffered a knee injury if he was at Halas Hall this week (or wherever the Browns practice). And he still figures to be a force whenever he returns. This just takes a little bit of the heat off.

The immediate impact will be felt in Houston. The Texans were 13-point favorites Sunday against the Colts with Watson at quarterback — and the pick here to cover easily, winning 42-17. With Tom Savage on late notice (or probably on any notice), the line dropped to seven in Las Vegas sportsbooks.

The Colts, though, have their own quarterback issues. It’s only a matter of how the Texans handle another shock to their system.

Pick: Texans 20, Colts 10.

Top plays for Week 9

Buccaneers at Saints

  • Time: Noon.
  • Line: Saints by 7.
  • Total: 51.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Buccaneeers 2-5/1-5-1; Saints 5-2/5-2.
  • Outlook: Bucs might be reaching a breaking point with QB Jameis Winston struggling with a bum shoulder. After losing by five, five and three points, the Bucs were outclassed in a 17-3 loss to the Panthers last week.
  • Pick: Saints 34, Buccaneers 10.

Cardinals at 49ers

  • Time: 3:05 p.m.
  • Line: Cardinals by 2. Total: 39½.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Cardinals 3-4/1-6; 49ers 0-8/4-4.
  • Outlook: The 49ers insist QB Jimmy Garoppolo willl not start (though coach Kyle Shanahan did not rule him out completely), but the bold move to acquire Garoppolo is enough to give them some pep in their step.
  • Pick: 49ers 26, Cardinals 17.

Lions at Packers

  • Time:  7:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN.
  • Line: Lions by 2½Total: 43½.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Lions 3-4/3-4; Packers 4-3/3-4.
  • Outlook: NFC Central teams can’t wait to face the Packers without QB Aaron Rodgers. The last time QB Matt Stafford and the Lions faced the Packers with Rodgers out with an injury, they won 40-10 at Ford Field in 2013.
  • Pick: Lions 33, Packers 16.

The rest of the NFL picks

Broncos at Eagles

  • Time: Noon, Ch. 2.
  • Line: Eagles by 7½. Total: 43.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Broncos 3-4/2-4-1; Eagles 7-1/6-2.
  • Outlook: Broncos turn to Brock Osweiler at QB in place of Trevor Siemian. Eagles are flying high behind QB Carson Wentz (19 TDs, eight INTs, 101.6 rating) and added RB Jay Ajayi in trade with Dolphins. Having two No. 1 RBs looks good on paper, but as the Bears found out with Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, the dynamic can be problematic.
  • Pick: Eagles 27, Broncos 23.

Rams at Giants

  • Time: Noon.
  • Line: Rams by 3½. Total: 42.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Rams 5-2/4-3; Giants 1-6/3-4.
  • Outlook: After a hot start, Rams QB Jared Goff has been mediocre at best in his last three games (52.3 percent, two TDs, three INTs, 65.9). But the Rams are more than just Goff. They beat the Jaguars and Cardinals during that span and lost a tight one against the Seahawks.
  • Pick: Rams 24, Giants 17.

Bengals at Jaguars

  • Time: Noon.
  • Line: Jaguars by 5½. Total: 39.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Bengals 3-4/3-4; Jaguars 4-3/4-3.
  • Outlook: Both teams are coming off a victory against the Colts, but the Bengals needed a fourth-quarter pick-six to win 24-23 at home last week. The Jaguars cruised to a 27-0 rout at Lucas Oil Stadium on Oct. 22 and are coming off a bye.
  • Pick: Jaguars 19, Bengals 12.

Falcons at Panthers

  • Time: Noon, Fox-32.
  • Line: Panthers by 1. Total: 43½.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Falcons 4-3/2-5; Panthers 5-3/4-4.
  • Outlook: Interesting X-factor here is temperamental QB Cam Newton’s response after losing his No. 1 receiver and close friend Kelvin Benjamin, who was traded to the Bills this week. Newton said he’ll get over it, but his tone this week wasn’t that convincing. And the Panthers follow his lead.
  • Pick: Falcons 23, Panthers 21.

Ravens at Titans

  • Time: Noon.
  • Line: Titans by 3½. Total: 43½.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Ravens 4-4/4-4; Titans 4-3/3-4.
  • Outlook: When’s the last time a team is a dog after winning by 40 or more points, as the Ravens are here after beating the Dolphins 40-0 on Oct. 26? Just four weeks ago, when the Texans were two-point dogs at the Chiefs after a 57-14 rout of the Titans. (They lost 42-34 and did not cover.) Titans aren’t the Chiefs, though. Joe Flacco (concussion) is expected to start.
  • Pick: Ravens 24, Titans 20.

Redskins at Seahawks

  • Time: 3:05 p.m.
  • Line: Seahawks by 7. Total: 45.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Redskins 3-4/5-2; Seahawks 5-2/3-4.
  • Outlook: Redskins need a victory after getting thumped by the Cowboys, but this is a tough spot. Seahawks and Russell Wilson (franchise-record 452 yards last week) are picking up steam with four consecutive wins. They are 31-9 SU/28-11-1 ATS in the second half of the season with Wilson at QB.
  • Pick: Seahawks 33, Redskins 30.

Chiefs at Cowboys

  • Time: 3:25 p.m., Ch. 2.
  • Line: Pick ’em. Total: 51.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Chiefs 6-2/6-2; Cowboys 4-3/4-3.
  • Outlook: Cowboys prepared to play without RB Ezekiel Elliott because of a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct penalty, but now will have Elliott after the NFLPA received an administrative stay of the suspension. That’s got to give the Cowboys a boost.
  • Pick: Cowboys 31, Chiefs 23. 

Raiders at Dolphins

  • Time: 7:20 p.m., Ch. 5.
  • Line: Raiders by 3. Total: 44.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Raiders 3-5/3-5; Dolphins 4-3/3-3-1.
  • Outlook: Dolphins are on tilt after a nationally televised 40-0 loss to the Ravens on Oct. 26. QB Jay Cutler is expected to start after suffering cracked ribs Oct. 22. He’s as tough as they come but not always at his best when he returns quickly from injury.
  • Pick: Raiders 27, Dolphins 23.