Date: Saturday, January 20th, 2024
Start Time: 4:30 pm/ET
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Stadium: M&T Bank Stadium
TV Info: ESPN/ABC/ESPN+ (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Lisa Salters, Laura Rutledge)
Points Spread: HOU +9.5 (-110) | BAL -9.5 (110)
Moneyline: HOU (+370) | BAL (-480)
Over/Under: O 43.5 (-110) | U 43.5 (-110)
Lines via FanDuel as of Friday, January 19th
After a very intense wild card weekend of NFL football, the playoff intensity will only keep increasing as the divisional playoff round will begin in less than 24 hours! One of the more energetic matchups will be on the AFC side of the NFL as the Houston Texans will travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens. Houston is coming off a dominant wild card win over the Cleveland Browns, as they plowed over the Browns 45-14. Now, Houston will have to take their momentum into a much colder Baltimore to take on the number one seed of the AFC.
A Week One Rematch
There is already a little bit of bitterness attached to the Texans-Ravens matchup. not only for the chance to move on to the AFC championship; but these two teams faced each other in week 1 of the 2023 season, where Baltimore dominated Houston 25-9. Houston did not score a touchdown in that game, and the Ravens scored two touchdowns on the ground, a two-point conversion, and a couple of Justin Tucker field goals. That game also took place at M&T Bank Stadium, but was a lot warmer. The game time temperature for Saturday is 28 degrees. There will be a lot of fire in the Texans locker room as they look not only to move on to the AFC championship but to get revenge after the week one loss.
High-Powered Offenses That Rely on Their QBs.
Alright, let's talk about some offense, something both of these teams feature a lot of. Starting with the home team Baltimore, the Ravens come in with the fourth-highest scoring offense in football, along with the sixth-highest offense in terms of yards in the NFL. The Ravens are known for running the ball, as they rank first in the league in attempts, first in yards, and fourth in touchdowns. Baltimore's passing attack isn't at the top of the league but still compliments the running well as they rank 21st in yards, 12th in touchdowns, and have the least amount of interceptions in the league. Also to note, the Ravens have only passed the ball 494 times, which is 30th in the league.
Lamar Jackson has been on a tear this year as he is one of the favorites to win the NFL MVP. Jackson has thrown for 3,678 yards, 24 touchdowns, and only 7 interceptions. But, it is not just the arm of Jackson that defenses has to worry about, it's his legs. Jackson has also run for 821 yards and 5 touchdowns. There is also a chance that Jackosn gets one of his favorite targets back, Mark Andrews who is questionable to play, Andrews hasn't played a game since November due to an ankle injury.
Moving on to the Houston Texans offense that is almost the direct opposite of the Ravens. The Texans rank 13th in points and 12th in yards, and the Texans throw the football a lot more ranking 12th in the league in pass attempts. Houston also ranks seventh in passing yards and twelfth in passing touchdowns, the Texans have also turned the ball over the second-least in the NFL just one spot behind Baltimore. Now, the Texans don't rely on the run as much as the Ravens do as they rank 20th in attempts, 22nd in yards, and 23rd in touchdowns.
C.J. Stroud has taken over the NFL and has become a fan favorite at the QB position. Even with missing two games this season, Stroud has thrown for 4305 yards, 23 touchdowns, and just 5 interceptions. Stroud has also helped his case for NFL Rookie of the Year with three touchdowns on the ground. Stroud had a very good playoff debut against the Cleveland Browns last week, where he threw for 274 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, the conditions will change as he is set to face an even tougher Ravens defense, in Baltimore and in much colder weather.
Will Both Defenses be able to Keep the Point Total Under 43.5?
Ravens Defense: Points Against- 1st, Yards Against- 6th
Texans Defense: Points Against- 11th, Yards Against- 14th
To answer the question that is proposed above, yes I think the over/under will be under 43.5. These are two defenses that are at the top of the league, all while the Ravens arguably have the best defense in the league. Both defenses also do very well at taking the ball away, as Houston's turnover differential stands at +10 and Baltimore's stands at +12.
Baltimore's defense also leads the league in sacks at 60, Justin Madubuike led the team with 13 on the year. Madubuike recorded a sack in week 1 against Houston as well. Other key players on Raven's defense are safety Kyle Hamilton (4 interceptions), linebacker Patrick Queen (158 total tackles), and linebacker Roquan Smith (133 total tackles).
Houston features a sack specialist themselves as Jonathan Greenard recorded 12.5 sacks on the season good for 11th in the league. It'll be a very fun matchup though, as the Texans have the sixth-best rushing defense in the league going up against, Raven's number-one rushing attack, but the Texans have given up the 27th most rushing touchdowns in the league at 19. Other key defensive players for the Texans are linebacker Blake Cashman (106 total tackles), Derek Stingley Jr. (12 pass deflections, 5 interceptions), and cornerback Steven Nelson (4 interceptions).
The winner of this game will be taking on either Kansas City or Buffalo in the AFC championship game next Sunday. If the Texans win, it would be their first AFC championship in franchise history, Demeco Ryan would be the first rookie head coach since Matt LaFleur (2019) to make it to a conference championship game. On the other side, it would be Baltimore's fifth AFC championship game, the first since 2012 which was under current head coach John Harbaugh who led the Ravens to a Super Bowl win back in 2012. This game does have the potential to feature a lot of offense, but due to the cold weather and how tough both defenses have been, I'm calling for a low-scoring affair that will go in Raven's favor. Houston has had a very good season and has a bright future ahead of them. However, the Ravens are the team to beat in the AFC this year and could quite frankly win the Super Bowl this year.
Prediction: BAL: 23, HOU: 16