Playoff teams from 2019 that are heading in different directions come together in Houston as the Texans play host to the Baltimore Ravens. Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson makes for a fascinating quarterback matchup. Houston needs to steady itself after being clocked by Kansas City in its opener.
Game: Baltimore Ravens vs Houston Texans
Location: NRG Stadium – Houston, Tx
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
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Next game: at Texans
Last Game : 38-6 vs Browns
The Ravens could not have looked better in their 2020 opener. They allowed just over 300 yards (306) in a game that was over in the third quarter. Even with the Browns needing to pass on every down, they didn’t score a single point in the second half. Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield completed barely more than 50% of his passes. Mayfield threw 39 passes for only 189 yards, an average of under five yards per pass attempt. That’s an indication of how suffocating Baltimore’s defense was. Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson was dazzling, completing 20-of-25 passes – 80% – for 275 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He looked like an MVP candidate once again after winning the 2019 award.
The Ravens are 4-0 ATS in their last four games as a road favorite. Keep in mind that in 2019, two of their three losses — including the playoff bummer — were at home. They lost only once on the road, to the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs, and have been an exceptionally strong road team since Jackson became their regular starting quarterback.
The Ravens demolished the Texans last season, winning 41-7 in November, winning outright and covering the sports betting spread. Jackson completed 70% of his passes, 17-of-24. The Ravens collected 491 total yards of offense, rushing for 256 and passing for 235. Baltimore sacked Watson a whopping six times, collecting seven sacks overall. Watson is a mobile quarterback, but the Ravens caved the pocket and did not give Watson any running lanes. The Ravens limited the Texans to 169 yards in actual passes completed. The Ravens’ seven sacks accounted for minus-59 yards, meaning that Houston’s net passing yardage for the game was 110.
Baltimore engineered a 47-point turnaround at home versus the Browns, relative to last season. Baltimore lost 40-25 to Cleveland a year ago on its home field. The Ravens went from a 15-point defeat to a 32-point victory. Their defense was razor-sharp. Baltimore won by more than 30 points in a season opener for the second straight season.
The Ravens’ last two road games outside of the Eastern time zone: a 45-6 win at the Los Angeles Rams and a 30-16 win at the Seattle Seahawks in 2019. This game versus Houston is in the Central time zone.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley left the Week 1 game against the Cleveland Browns with an ankle injury, but on Monday, Coach John Harbaugh said the injury wasn’t significant at all, leading everyone to believe that Stanley will be able to start against the Texans.
Marlon Humphrey, who intercepted Mayfield in the first few minutes of the opener, suffered a slight injury later in the game, but like Stanley, the injury is not viewed as remotely serious.
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Next game: vs Ravens
Last Game: 34-20 loss at Chiefs
What should be especially concerning for anyone inclined to bet on the Texans is that Houston coach Bill O’Brien remains extremely conservative against high-quality opposition. Last year, he memorably kicked a field goal on fourth-and-one when leading 21-0 against the Chiefs in the AFC Playoffs. He refused to go for the first down, keep the ball, and build a bigger lead. The Chiefs rallied from a 24-0 deficit to win that game. One might have thought that many months later in a new season, O’Brien would become more aggressive against the Chiefs, but no, he did not. He punted on fourth-and-short near midfield early in the game. The Chiefs drove the length of the field for a touchdown and went on to win the game by 14 points. If O’Brien as a coach won’t trust Watson to make a game’s biggest plays, it is increasingly harder to see how the Texans are likely to find the big plays they need to beat the Ravens, who were 14-2 in the 2019 NFL regular season.
Watson threw for 253 yards against the Chiefs with one touchdown and one interception. He completed 62.5% of his passes. Running back David Johnson led the Texans against Kansas City with 77 rushing yards, on 11 carries. Houston might try to get him more touches in this game. Will Fuller led all Houston receivers versus the Chiefs with 112 yards. Fuller caught eight passes, including a long of 31 yards. Houston allowed 166 rushing yards to the Chiefs. The Texans were shredded by Patrick Mahomes, who completed 75% of his passes (24-of-32) for three touchdowns without an interception.
If there is one trend that favors the Texans, it is that the home team is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between these teams. However, the first few games of that span do not include instances in which Jackson was part of this matchup. He only recently joined the Ravens relative to this team-specific, head-to-head against the Texans. The Ravens are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games versus the AFC. That’s a lot for the Texans to fight against.
Running back Duke Johnson is out. This leaves Houston with little depth at running back. It’s going to be entirely up to David Johnson to give rushing production from the running back spot.
Betting on the Game
Point Spread: Ravens -6.5
Lots of wacky results have occurred early in the NFL season: The Jaguars upset the Colts. The Washington Football Team came from 17 points down to beat the favored Eagles by 10. The Packers scored 43 points against the Vikings – that was unexpected. The Cardinals went into San Francisco and upended the 49ers after trailing by 10 points early. The Ravens are in great form but unpredictability is a hallmark of the early season NFL, more so in a pandemic.
Moneyline: Ravens -200
The Ravens are going to be hard for the Texans to beat, in large part because the Texans gave up four sacks to the Chiefs. The Ravens have a better defense and a superior front seven compared to Kansas City. They are so physical that they can impose their will on Houston’s shaky offensive front. If the Ravens can do that, Watson won’t have enough time to throw.
Over/Under: Over 52.5
Jackson is playing lights-out. If Baltimore scores more than 30 points, one could imagine Houston playing from behind, much as it did in Kansas City last week, in a game that totaled 54 points. If Baltimore gets off to a solid early lead, forcing Houston to play catch-up, the ingredients for an over will exist. Go over the number in the sportsbook.