Nobody at the start of the year expected the Houston Texans to be here, and most expected the Ravens to be here. The Texans are led by CJ Stroud who has had the greatest single-season of any rookie Quarterback in NFL history.
The Ravens are led by probable 2023 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, who has had an outstanding season under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. The Ravens have a top 10 offense and defense and are prohibitive favorites in this game.
On Saturday at home against the Texans, the Baltimore Ravens starters will return after missing two weeks due to already having secured the #1 seed for playoff contention. Most important Ravens players also sat out week 17’s matchup against the Steelers as a result of being so focused on protecting that #1 spot. The Ravens completed the regular season at 13-4 with quarterback Lamar Jackson as the favorite to be named NFL MVP. Jackson amassed over 3,600 passing yards, 24 touchdown passes and seven interceptions during the year; additionally, he ran for 821 yards with five scores as team leader. Jackson will remain under close watch in the playoffs. By age 27, he had won more games (58) than any player in NFL history, yet in that same span of time, only one playoff victory is to his credit despite going 1-3 with four touchdowns and 7 turnovers in those three contests. It’s now or never for him!
Head Coach Demeco Ryans, rookie quarterback CJ Stroud and the Houston Texans were not expected to be here this season. Ryans wasn’t expected to turn things around so quickly for a team that won just three games last season. Stroud, selected with the second pick in the draft, wasn’t expected to become such an accomplished quarterback so quickly – or for his team to achieve such quick success by winning the AFC South Division title so quickly. As they faced off against the Browns in last week’s wildcard matchup, the Texans were once again underestimated, coming in as an underdog at home. CJ Stroud and his defense had other ideas, however; Stroud became the youngest quarterback ever to win a playoff game, throwing for three touchdowns while the Texans defense was returning two interceptions for touchdowns to defeat them 45-14 on Saturday handily.
This spread is too big and eerily similar to 2019, when Jackson won the MVP, and the Ravens sat everybody and had three weeks off. Look for a fast start by the young Texans, and then the Ravens will find their game and knock off the rust. This will be a close, hard-fought game to the end. With that being said, take the Texans and the +9.5.
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