Prior to the NFL season I made a bold prediction
in the Sportsmemo Blog that the Texans would not only win their division and advance to their first every playoffs, but also make a run to the AFC Championship Game. The possibility is in place, but the situation and odds are clearly against the Texans this week as they play the Baltimore Ravens; the best team in the AFC in my opinion.
Houston (11-6) delivered our 20* NFL Playoff Game of the Year winner last week with a 31-10 win over Cincinnati. That runs our NFL playoff sides record to 6-0 the past three seasons. And while I initially thought the line was too high favoring Baltimore this week, it’s going to take a huge effort and probably some turnovers and/or key special teams’ plays for the Texans to knock off Baltimore (12-4) and even stay within a touchdown. I’ve added the Ravens to my 6-point teaser plays this week.
The Ravens went a perfect 8-0 at home this season at M&T Bank Stadium. One of those wins was a 29-14 victory over the Texans in a game which Baltimore was also off a bye. And while star receiver Andre Johnson will be back in the lineup this game after missing the October 16th contest against the Ravens, Houston will have to find a way to move the ball with rookie quarterback T. J. Yates this time around. Quarterback Matt Schaub played against the Ravens last game before being lost for the season with a foot injury in November.
Here are some pointspread notes supporting the Ravens, who also fit a strong profile and parameter as a playoff loser in this round last year.
- Baltimore has never lost to Houston, going 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS.
- Under quarterback Joe Flacco and head coach John Harbaugh, Baltimore is 26-3 SU and 17-11-1 ATS as home favorite.
- Baltimore is 12-4-1 as a home favorite laying -8 or less
Both teams rank top-4 in run defense, pass defense and overall defense. But note that the Ravens did play six playoff teams this season and went 6-0 SU and 5-0-1 ATS against those opponents. That pointspread push was against the Patriots, as the Ravens lost 23-20 in overtime at New England. The Ravens appear on a crash course to battle the Patriots again next week in Foxboro for the AFC Championship. The Ravens are all business this week with a sense of urgency in preparation for the Texans. The window is shrinking for an aging group of stars and they are in a positive position and situation to advance to the AFC Championship Game next week.
Houston led the NFL in time of possession this season, averaging 32:30 minutes per game. The Texans also runs the ball nearly 53% of their plays; only the Broncos run it at a higher percentage. We can rely on their strong running game with Foster and Tate (No. 2 in NFL at 151 ypg) to try to move and control the ball, clock and chains. But it’s going to be very difficult against an experienced Ravens team with a top-tier defense and proven playoff success. Baltimore is the only NFL team to qualify for the playoffs each of the past four seasons, and it has won at least one playoff game each of the past three seasons. The Ravens balanced offense should make enough plays while their dominating defense controls this contest to the approval of their raucous fans.
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