The Spread and Total
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (-7, 38 O/U), courtesy of our top-rated sportsbook, Bovada.
Other books have the Ravens as 7.5-point favorites, so shop around if you are keen to bet the Texans.
D’Onta Foreman, out; Will Fuller, out; De’Andre Hopkins, probable; Alfred Blue, probable; Kevin Johnson, probable.
Terrell Suggs, questionable; Ronnie Stanley, probable; Jeremy Maclin, probable; Jimmy Smith, probable.
Dec. 21, 2014: Houston 25, Baltimore 13
Sep. 22, 2013: Baltimore 30, Houston 9
Oct. 21, 2012: Houston 43, Baltimore 13
Significant ATS Trends
Baltimore is 7-5 against the spread at home since 2016.
The Texans are 3-1 ATS on the road this season.
The Ravens have gone OVER the total in five of their last six games.
Houston is 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 primetime games.
On Monday Night Football this season, favorites are 9-2-1 ATS, and home teams are 7-4-1 ATS.
The Texans picked up their first win without DeShaun Watson last week, a 31-21 defeat of the Cardinals that came from a strong run game and Blaine Gabbert’s careless quarterbacking. Despite looking helpless for long stretches with Tom Savage running the offense, they’ll enter this Monday Nighter just one game back of the AFC’s second Wild Card. Even after losing rookie running back D’Onta Foreman for the season, the Texans will need to lean on that run game this week, as that’s where the one small crack in Baltimore’s top-rated defense (per Football Outsiders’ DVOA) resides.
Without that dominant D, the Ravens might still be winless on the season. Three of their five wins have been shutouts. Any time Baltimore’s defense surrenders 20 or more points, the offense can’t keep pace, and the team remains winless in those situations. So the goal for Houston is obvious: get to 20 points, and you’ll probably leave with a win (at least against the spread).
The Ravens offensive struggles stem entirely from the quarterback position. Once thought to be one of the game’s better deep-ball passers, Joe Flacco has been abysmal at throwing downfield this year. Pro Football Focus rates him 31st in downfield efficiency, and his passes are, on average, 2.1 yards behind the first-down marker, which is second-shortest in the league. That lack of aggression isn’t helping him protect the football though, as he’s thrown for just nine touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Flacco’s inaccuracy is also killing the run game. They seem to have finally found a back they like in Alex Collins, but with no threat of a pass game, defenses can stack the box and take away a rather predictable ground attack.
The Texans’ front seven has been ravaged this season, losing J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Christian Covington to injury, while Brian Cushing won’t return from suspension until next week. Overall, they’re still a respectable unit, coming into the week 16th in defensive DVOA, but without a ton of pressure coming from up front, they haven’t been able to generate much by way of game-changing takeaways. Against Flacco, the opportunity for interceptions will be there, as long as Jadeveon Clowney and company can bring a rush.
Speaking of interceptions, Savage will have to be careful with the ball: Baltimore leads the league with 16 picks. With Will Fuller still out, DeAndre Hopkins is getting even more targets than usual (averaging 13 in the past three games). While that can lead to success against lesser secondaries, against this lockdown Ravens unit, having tunnel vision for one man will only lead Savage into trouble. Hopkins averages just 2.1 yards of separation per catch, which is fourth-lowest among qualified receivers. Against Jimmy Smith, who has allowed a league-low 25.7 passer rating when targeted, those windows should be even tighter.
In a game where you expect some turnovers and a few short fields, it’s encouraging that Baltimore is getting touchdowns on 55-percent of their red zone trips over the last three games. In that same span, Houston is punching the ball in on just 25-percent of red zone drives.
In terms of intangibles, the Ravens also boast a top special teams unit. Led by Justin Tucker, Baltimore ranks first in special teams DVOA, and can get points out of pretty much any drive that travels beyond their opponent’s 40-yard line.
As scary as it is to trust Joe Flacco anymore, all signs point to Baltimore being the play here. The dominance of home favorites in this spot is too big to ignore, and when you look at what the Ravens defense has done to some of the bad quarterbacks they’ve played this season, it’s easy to see how they can cover this big spread.
Taking Houston means you’re relying on Lamar Miller, Bruce Ellington and the rest of the Texans’ supporting cast to make plays and boost Savage. That’s not something I’m comfortable betting on.
I would also put a little on the over. Houston’s Week 11 game topped a low 38-point total, and Baltimore has been on an OVER tear in the last few weeks.
Pick: Ravens (-7) and OVER (38).