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The struggling Falcons haven’t been able to defend the pass, and the Texans have a loaded offense with Deshaun Watson and arguably football’s best group of wide receivers. If you can expect anything during Sunday’s matchup, it’s that more than a few points will be scored.
Here is our breakdown with projected odds, mismatches to note and our staff’s favorite pick.
Odds as of Thursday afternoon and via PointsBet, where Action Network users get an exclusive 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150).
Falcons-Texans injury report
The only Falcons player who has been missing practice is OL Jamon Brown (concussion). C Alex Mack (elbow) got banged up last week, but he returned to practice on Thursday with his elbow heavily taped.
For Houston, Kenny Stills (hamstring) got hurt last week and was limited in practice all week. His practice participation on Friday will be a strong indicator of his health heading into Week 5.
Note: Info as of Thursday. See our Injury Report for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff.
Texans wide receivers vs. Atlanta pass defense
This game may end up being Sunday’s biggest shootout. While Kansas City vs. Indianapolis has the highest over/under number (56.5), the Texans’ passing game could erupt against a weak Atlanta defensive secondary.
The Falcons rank 21st in pass defense DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. Atlanta allowed Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota to throw three touchdowns at home in Week 4 and have only defended nine passes as a team this season (fourth-worst in the league). To compound the problem, the Falcons’ pass rushers have logged just five sacks this season, which is second-worst in football.
Per PlayerProfiler, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has a 77.2 percent clean-pocket completion percentage, eighth-best among quarterbacks. When Watson has time, he can produce plenty of points with one of the best receiving units in the NFL.
Atlanta will have to stop All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who has compiled three consecutive WR38 or worse fantasy performances. Teammates Will Fuller (4.33 speed) has narrowly missed connecting with Watson on major pass plays in each of the past three weeks.
This should concern an Atlanta pass defense that has allowed a 100.8 passer rating on average in each of their first four games.
The Falcons haven’t generated a consistent pass rush, and do not currently have a cornerback ranked in the Top 40 in pass coverage at Pro Football Focus. The loss of safety Keanu Neal to a season-ending injury worsens their matchup against Houston.
Projected spread: Texans -4
Projected total: 48
Both teams are off to a bit of a disappointing start.
The Falcons, in particular, are reeling. Their offensive line issues are likely to be a problem all season.
This sets up as a Texans bounce-back spot, and we expect Hopkins to erupt for a big game. Unfortunately, this market is very much in line with what we’re projecting, which means picking a side is a pass.
Atlanta’s lack of ability to generate quarterback pressure will be a welcome relief for a Houston offensive line that has allowed the third-most quarterback sacks and second-most quarterback hits this season. If we incorporate data from the FantasyLabs trends tool, when Watson has played at home in a game with a 44-point or higher total, he has exceeded his projected total 81.8 percent of the time. The Falcons’ 21st-ranked pass defense will struggle to contain wide receivers Hopkins, Fuller and Keke Coutee.
For Atlanta, quarterback Matt Ryan has continued to post quality fantasy numbers despite poor efficiency. Ryan ranks first in pass attempts, second in passing yards, and still ranks Top 10 in fantasy points per game. He has thrown for 300-plus yards in every game this season, although most came in comeback mode. The Texans’ secondary has yielded huge performances to top wideouts this year, including Keenan Allen (13 catches, 183 yards, two TDs) and Michael Thomas (10 catches, 123 yards).
This shootout has the potential to be the highest-scoring game in Week 5.
The pick: over 49
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