The RSR Staff gets at it again with their Bold Predictions in an important matchup between two playoff-bound teams, the Ravens and Texans…
Week 11 features a battle of evenly matched teams and a pair of exciting, multi-talented quarterbacks who have squared off previously at the collegiate level. This one should be well worth the price of admission and it could be decided by the team that has the last possession.
If you’re looking for offense, Lamar Jackson and DeShaun Watson should provide plenty of fireworks like they did when they last met when Watson’s Clemson Tigers beat Lamar’s Louisville Cardinals, 42-36 on October 1, 2016.
So what can we expect in this QB rematch?
• Lamar Jackson maintains a hot hand but this time around it will be his arm more so than those dynamic legs that steals the show. Lamar will pepper the suspect Texans secondary, throwing for 275 yards and 3 scores, one on a 40+ yard connection with Marquise Brown.
• The Ravens generate over 400 yards of offense, 80 yards coming from Mark Ingram who adds another score to his resume.
• DeShaun Watson eclipses the 300 yard mark. He’ll connect with DeAndre Hopkins for a pair of scores. Watson posts 3 scoring tosses during the afternoon.
• A 43-yard field goal from Justin Tucker with under 3 minutes to go is the difference.
Ravens 34, Texans 31
— Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson will meet for the first time as pros and should provide plenty of highlight reel material as each of them make their case for league MVP.
— The Ravens lead the NFL with 197.2 ground yards per game, but they will face a formidable challenge against the Texans, who are third against the run. Houston’s secondary has struggled, which could open up the game for Jackson to make plays over the top. Furthermore, this game could turn into a shootout and Jackson will have to move the ball through the air. The Ravens are scoring 33.1 points per game and the Texas are averaging 26.4 points.
— Houston’s running attack is led by Carlos Hyde (704 yards) and he could find some space, especially if Baltimore defensive tackle Michael Pierce is unable to play because of an ankle injury. If the Texans control the ground game, the Ravens will be in trouble.
— The Ravens also have to be wary of receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who is capable of getting behind a secondary. Hopkins will likely face man-coverage against Marlon Humphrey, who can dominate an opponent.
— If the season ended today, the Ravens (7-2) would be the No. 2 seed behind the New England Patriots (8-1) in the AFC playoffs. If New England slips down the road, Baltimore owns the tiebreaker by virtue of its 37-20 victory in Week 9. That’s why it’s vital for the Ravens to take down Houston. If the Texans escape with a victory, they could put themselves in position for that first-round bye.
This game will have a playoff atmosphere.
Ravens 32 Texans 27
Until the Ravens give me reason to doubt them, I’m all in at this point. I keep predicting wins, and the Ravens keep winning even bigger than I’d optimistically hoped for. Why stop now?
Ravens 31 Texans 20
All of the national attention around the Ravens this past week makes me nervous. Since I don’t live in Maryland it’s great to constantly see Lamar highlights every time I turn on ESPN or the NFL Network. The Ravens have an explosive offense? I’m not sure I know how to handle that. I just hope the team and Lamar being so young can handle the spotlight – I think he can.
As much attention as the offense has been getting this week, the defense has almost been overlooked. The Ravens have only given up 49 points the last three games, which wouldn’t be incredibly impressive if two of the games weren’t against Russell Wilson and Tom Brady. The mid-season additions have paid dividends and I think they continue to show up and feed off the crowd’s energy this week.
— Marlon Humphrey limits DeAndre Hopkins to fewer than five catches and fifty yards.
— The Ravens tight ends are held in check for one of the few times this year, combining for fewer than 7 catches.
— A receiver other than Hollywood Brown has over 100 yards and a touchdown.
— The Ravens score another touchdown on defense for their sixth defensive score in four weeks.
— The Ravens keep rolling.
Ravens 29 Texans 17
— Lamar Jackson out-duels Deshaun Watson in one of the games of the year.
— Both defenses go without a turnover but hold the opponent to under 30 points.
— The running games for both sides excel, with three rushing touchdowns and 250 yards between the two teams.
— Miles Boykin catches five passes for 70 yards and a score as the Texans focus on Andrews and Brown.
— Deshaun Watson is poised to lead a game-winning drive before Marlon Humphrey breaks up a key fourth down jump-ball to DeAndre Hopkins.
Ravens 27 Texans 23
Defensively, the Ravens have held their last two opponents to 5.5 yards per pass attempt. Keeping that standard for a 3rd week feels like mission impossible squaring off against a Deshaun Watson-led offense. They won’t be able to stifle the Texans offense at that same level but Wink Martindale’s strong play calling coupled with the offense’s keep-away tendencies will keep Watson at bay enough to avoid a huge day.
On offense it will be business as usual (that’s weird to say). 200 combined rushing yards between the trio of Lamar, Ingram and Edwards. Receiving touchdowns for Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown.
The Ravens are operating nearly like a self-actualized team that knows exactly how they are best equipped to win football games. On both sides of the ball they are being coached as well as maybe I’ve seen them be coached. The roll continues.
Ravens 30 Texans 20
This is one of those games that are really hard to peg. The Texans possess a lethal offense and can hit you in so many ways. They have a good run defense, but a very susceptible pass defense. The Ravens have improved their pass defense since acquiring Marcus Peters and getting Jimmy Smith back, and the signings of Justin Ellis and Domata Peko should help soften the blow of losing Michael Pierce for an extended amount of time.
This is a classic game of “something has got to give.” Carlos Hyde has seemingly found himself again with the Texans, creating a challenge for the Ravens run defense that gave up far more rushing yards than they’d like last week. I suspect a bit better of a showing on Sunday, making Watson beat them through the air. That also proves to be a hard task, as Watson is more than capable of doing just that.
In a game where field goals will not win the game, I think Lamar Jackson proves to be a tough stop for the Texans defense. Roman & Co. will hit them every way they can imagine, for more than they can possibly gameplan.
— Humphrey will be matched up in DeAndre Hopkins and will limit him to 4 catches for 45 yards.
— Marcus Peters will make another house call in Watson’s only turnover of the game.
— Greg Roman will come out firing through the air with Jackson going for over 250 through the air with a couple of touchdowns.
— The Ravens’ total rush yards will eclipse 120 and be enough to control the clock.
Ravens 31 Texans 24
At this point, I can’t pick against the Ravens in any game. I expect they will have a bad game or two and will doubtfully finish the rest of the season without a loss. If you look at this game like a fan from the Texans or any other team, the Ravens have to be the team to worry about the most. I promise you that defensive coordinators are worried about Lamar. This Lamar-led offense is the most dangerous and difficult to deal with in the NFL. This should be an exciting game with two of the top young quarterbacks in the league for the first time since their college shootout.
— Lamar dazzles again with two touchdown passes and another rushing touchdown. He will rush for over 70 yards and throw for over 225 yards.
— Myles Boykin is the recipient of Lamar’s other touchdown pass.
— Marlon Humphrey does a much better job against DeAndre Hopkins than Jimmy Smith did they last time they met. Hopkins will have less than 50 yards and be held to 4 catches or fewer.
— Marcus Peters will have another interception but won’t take this one to the house.
Ravens 34 Texans 24
Every big game I have predicted this year outside of the Kansas City game has gone the opposite direction, so here’s hoping I reverse that trend…
Deshaun Watson has been my MVP this year (well, along with Russell Wilson). Watson has a dysfunctional front office, a bland head coach, and a rather average roster outside of a great receiver corps. That being said, I wonder how much Watson will have to do this game to win, especially considering his defense won’t be doing him any favors against what has been the NFL’s most effective offense this year.
As for Baltimore, they have an opportunity to defeat the two (other) best teams in the AFC in a three-week span. They have an opportunity to expose a rather uninspiring defense, especially with the loss of J.J. Watt. Jackson can improve his MVP status in the event Watson or Wilson fall off a cliff. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to Watson Versus Jackson 2, their first meeting since their collegiate days.
I think Watson will use his deep receiver corps to pick apart the Ravens secondary. I view DeAndre Hopkins to be the top wide receiver in football, and I don’t see any of Baltimore’s corners being able to slow him down alone. Houston’s offensive line has improved steadily throughout the year, thus giving Watson more time to work his magic. The run game won’t be utilized as much as you would think (considering we most likely won’t see Michael Pierce), but Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson will combine for 75+ yards and one score. Watson will throw for 350 yards and three scores, as he throws one TD each to his top WRs.
On offense, I am going to be interested to see what Baltimore does. Even without Watt, the Texans defense has found ways to play well. Zach Cunningham, Gareon Conley, and D.J. Reader have all been playing at a high level, but there isn’t much to say outside of that. Baltimore’s best course of action might be to limit the amount of possessions Houston has. That is why I anticipate the Ravens dominating on the ground again. As tempting as it is to attack a poor secondary, if it comes to a shootout, Baltimore typically is on the losing end. I anticipate Lamar, Mark Ingram, and Gus Edwards to combine fore 300+ yards and four scores. To convert long yardage situations, Ingram and Hayden Hurst will be the beneficiaries of those passes. Lamar will still finish with 200 passing yards, with 1 TD, to go along with 125 yards and 2 scores on the ground.
This will be one worth watching, because this is the future of the AFC whenever Tom Brady actually decides he is too far gone.
Baltimore 34 Houston 28
Doubt is a funny thing when it becomes an expectation, as some folks are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the last three games I’ve heard a murmuring of “they won’t be Seattle… okay but they can’t beat the Pats… fine, but the Bengals will be a trap game…”
Here we are once again, and once again I hear more murmuring of being “due a loss.” In fact, this morning, I heard the same person suggest the Texans will throw for 300+ & rush for 150+ against a Ravens D that stifled high-powered Seahawks and Patriots offenses in recent weeks and I gotta tell ya folks… the negativity will be banished come Sunday at 4 pm. Well, for a few days at least.
A fast start on offense for Baltimore with an opening drive touchdown sets the tone offensively, as will a forced punt on the Texans ensuing drive.
The Ravens will build a two-score lead going into halftime that will balloon to a 17-point lead early in the 3rd quarter, which is when the Texans become one dimensional and the Ravens secondary stalks their prey… two picks (Peters, Earl) for Watson who only has one pick on the year to date, and a fumble for Hyde will provide the Ravens with a few short field opportunities to balloon the score even more.
Texans will add a late TD for fun, but that’s all she wrote and the Ravens improve to 8-2.
Ravens 34 Texans 23
Drew Kordula (spread pick)
This is a colossal matchup for both teams and one that should be a blast to watch. A win by the Ravens will put them two games up for a first round bye in the playoffs, but a loss will thrust the Texans into that spot at 7-3 with a head-to-head win over Baltimore.
Naturally, the conversation about this game will be dominated by Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson, but it’ll ultimately come down to which defense can step up to the challenge and slow down these explosive offenses.
Houston currently owns the third-ranked defense against the run (84.1 yards per game) while only giving up 4.1 yards per carry. Most of that, however, was done with J.J. Watt. His loss will hurt the Texans in Baltimore on Sunday and will allow the Ravens to put a dent into those numbers a bit.
This game will be closer than the past few the Ravens have had and although I see the Ravens winning, I think Houston keeps it close enough to cover. What I really like in this game is the under. I think it will be lower scoring than the projected at around 45 points.
Houston is 2-10 straight up and ATS in their last 12 road games against teams with winning records. The Ravens are 3-10-1 ATS in their last 14 games as favorites.
My Pick: Houston +4