Previewing Week 12: Texans at Ravens
The Ravens posted an impressive 3rd shutout of the season this past week in Green Bay and are now officially holding the 2nd Wild Card, meaning if the season ended today, the Ravens would be headed to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars in the first round of the playoffs. Of course, the season is still far from over, but a favorable schedule down the stretch provides lots of reason for optimism for Ravens fans. It is still fair to be skeptical of the Ravens chances given their lack of consistent play on offense, but the defense has been excellent all season and it is giving the team a chance to win every game they play. The Ravens will now head back to M&T Bank Stadium to play in a rare home Monday Night Football match-up against the Houston Texans. A couple of weeks ago this game looked like it would be a tough test, but with rookie QB Deshaun Watson’s season ending injury the Ravens will now play against who is essentially another back-up QB in Tom Savage. Houston still has some dangerous weapons on offense and a solid defense, but the Ravens will have a great opportunity to win back to back games and further solidify their hold of the 2nd Wild Card in the AFC.
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The Texans were arguably the top offense in the NFL with Deshaun Watson under center, but without him they might be one of the worst in the league averaging just under 15 pts/game even with a 31 point outburst this past week at home vs the Cardinals. The Texans have a talented group of skill players around Savage headlined by WR Deandre Hopkins who is one of the best in the game. Hopkins is also the 2nd most targeted player in the NFL so CBs Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr will have their work cut out for them as they try to take away Savage’s top target. A rushing attack led by Lamar Miller has been solid this season, but they are not an overly explosive group of RBs posting only 4 total runs over 20 yards between them and promising rookie RB D’Onta Foreman is out for the season with an Achilles injury. The Ravens much-improved run defense should be able to handle the Texans offensive line that has struggled to consistently open running lanes or protect the QB on passing plays. In fact, the Texans have given up 32 sacks on the season, 4th worst in the league. The Ravens pass-rush led by a rejuvenated Terrell Suggs and 2nd year OLB Matt Judon have come on strong as of late and could be in for another big performance under the lights.
Houston’s defense has been somewhat hit or miss this season as they are missing defensive stalwarts J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Brian Cushing. That being said, they are still one of the top run defenses in the league, holding opponents to just 3.7 YPC so it may be difficult for the Ravens to get much of a rushing attack going in this one. The Texans also have a talented group of CBs led by the veterans Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson. However, the Texans have not been able to generate a consistent pass-rush with Jadeveon Clowney being the only real pass-rush threat left on the team. This is a game where Joe Flacco may have to make some plays through the air in order for the Ravens to generate consistent offense. Marty Mornhinweg will likely try to account for Clowney with a number of chips and double teams, similar to how the Ravens mitigated Khalil Mack of the Raiders. With RB Danny Woodhead back in the fold and WRs Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin solidified as the go to targets downfield, the Ravens have a chance to get the passing game going in this one. I would expect the offense to still utilize the run game to set up play action passing, but I don’t see this as a game where the Ravens can just run the ball 30+ times and win unless they are able to jump out to an early lead.
In the end, the heavily favored home team should win this MNF contest handily as they ride a hot defense against a team that is missing too many of its star players. Ravens 24 – 10.