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Ravens vs. Texans, Divisional Round — game pick and open thread

Ravens-Texans gets this weekend’s slate of NFL playoff games started

NFL: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens are set to kick off in this weekend’s Divisional Round of the 2023 NFL playoffs. The AFC clash is the first of two playoff games set to unfold today, with Ravens-Texans airing on (ESPN/ABC, ESPN+, ESPN Deportes).

The Ravens enter this afternoon’s matchup the favorites, having had a week of rest after securing the one seed in the AFC. The Texans are fresh off an impressive 45-14 win over the Cleveland Browns on Super Wild Card weekend, with rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud putting on a show with 274 yards passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions — before heading to the bench for an early day at the gridiron.

Let’s break down this matchup a bit, and enjoy this space as your open thread for this afternoon’s game!

The odds at DraftKings Sportsbook currently favor the Ravens at -10, with the over/under set at 43.5 and the moneyline at +330 for the Texans and -425 for the Ravens. For those unfamiliar with sports betting, a moneyline value of +330 for the Texans means that a $100 bet on the Texans would result in a $330 profit if they win, while a moneyline value of -425 for the Ravens means that a $425 bet on the Ravens would be needed to yield a $100 profit if they win.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson has been a standout player for the Ravens, earning his second All-Pro selection and currently being the favorite to win NFL MVP award. However, despite his individual accomplishments, Jackson has a playoff record of 1-3 and will be looking to change that starting with a strong performance against the Texans. The return of Andrews and the support of the Ravens’ top-ranked defense will be crucial in their pursuit of a victory.

Speaking of defense, the Ravens boast one of the best defensive units in the NFL, ranking first in several defensive categories such as completion percentage allowed, passing yards per attempt, pass TD-INT, and passer rating allowed on deep passes. Additionally, they have performed well in rushing yards allowed per game, passing yards allowed per game, and total offense allowed per game. The Ravens’ ability to generate turnovers has also been a key factor in their success, with 31 turnovers generated in the 2023 regular season.

However, the Texans have evolved since their earlier matchup with the Ravens in Week 1, and C.J. Stroud has been a driving force behind their success. Stroud’s ability to connect on deep passes has been impressive, with him leading the league in several deep-passing statistics. His growth as a rookie quarterback has been exceptional, and he’s likely to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.

The game is shaping up to be a showdown between Stroud and the Ravens’ secondary. While Stroud has shown his ability to thrive against tough defenses, Baltimore presents a formidable challenge with their defensive prowess. It will be crucial for Stroud to find the gaps in the defense and make the most of his opportunities if the Texans are to stand a chance against the Ravens.

As exceptional as Stroud has been, I believe that Jackson’s experience and the support of the Ravens’ defense will be the determining factors in this game. Look for the Ravens to teach the rookie a new lesson in the playoffs that he couldn’t learn in the regular season.

Game prediction: 31-17, Ravens over Texans

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