Ravens And Texans Tangle For AFC Supremacy
By: Michael Robinson
Thursday, October 18, 2012
The Week 7 matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans could easily determine home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
The Don Best Pro Odds have Houston as 6½-point home favorites after opening at -4½. Two huge injuries to Baltimore last week are a big reason for the spread move. The total has also moved up a bit to 48-48½ and CBS will have the 1:00 p.m. (ET) telecast from Reliant Stadium.
These are incredibly the only two AFC teams above .500 at 5-1 each. Houston (99.9) is down to fourth in the latest Don Best Linemakers Poll, while Baltimore (97.9) has dropped to ninth.
The Ravens survived last week against Dallas with a 31-29 victory. The Cowboys missed a 51-yard field goal with six seconds remaining. That win came at a devastating price as linebacker Ray Lewis (tricep) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee) were both almost definitely lost for the year.
Baltimore’s defense was already less devastating than in prior seasons at 26th in yards allowed (396.7 YPG). Linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles) was thought to be out until November, but he’s suddenly questionable, although that seems optimistic.
Second-year Jimmy Smith gets the first chance to replace Webb, but he’s questionable with an abdominal injury. No one can fill the emotional leadership of the fiery veteran Lewis. The combination of Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain are really being counted on now inside.
Coach Jim Harbuagh’s guys weren’t exactly blowing out teams even when fully healthy. They’ve won 4-straight by a total margin of 13 points, going 0-4 ATS.
Quarterback Joe Flacco will need to step up with the defensive woes. His quarterback rating in the two road games is 62.4 compared to 106.6 in the four at home. Those away tilts were a 9-6 win at Kansas City two weeks ago and a close 24-23 loss at Philly on September 16.
Houston (4-2 ATS) suffered its first loss of the season last week, 42-24 to Green Bay as 4-point favorites. That Sunday night debacle was put out of reach early in the fourth quarter and Aaron Rodgers torched the secondary with 338 passing yards and a whopping six TDs.
The Texans are 0-2 ATS in their last two games after starting the season 4-0 ATS.
Coach Gary Kubiak’s team suffered its own huge injury two weeks ago versus the Jets when linebacker Brian Cushing (knee) was lost for the year. He’s a leader of the defense, like Lewis for Baltimore, and his absence was really obvious last week versus the Packers (427 total yards).
Houston’s offense (28.8 PPG, ranked fifth) is explosive with Matt Schaub and the passing attack, plus the running of Arian Foster. Foster will be angry after being held to 29 yards on 17 carries last week, and will be going against the league’s 26th ranked run defense (136.5 YPG). Schaub will also be testing the depleted secondary early and often.
Note the ‘over’ is 4-1 in Houston’s last five home games (2-1 this year).
This is a revenge tilt for Houston who lost two games at Baltimore last season, including 20-13 (as 7½-point underdogs) in the playoffs. Both games went ‘under’ the total.
A win Sunday would go a long way in making sure a playoff meeting this year would be in the Lone Star State.