Six teams have gone and we are down to eight in the race to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy. We open up Divisional Weekend with Houston travelling to Baltimore.
@NFLGirlUK previews the action and we've picked out a couple of bets that we think you should consider heading into the contest...
The Divisional Round of the postseason gets started with the Houston Texans taking a trip to face the Baltimore Ravens. This is going to be a rematch with the Ravens taking down the Texans back in Week 1 of the regular season, though you could easily tell that quarterback CJ Stroud was still getting settled in. As was the remainder of this young roster. Let’s take a look at how this game might go.
Starting with the Texans, there’s no question that Stroud is the guy to make everything happen. The rookie quarterback has carried this team on his back all year long and is the major reason why they are 10-7 on the season despite him missing a few games.
Back in the opener against the Ravens when they lost 25-9, Stroud completed 64 percent of his passes for 242 yards without a touchdown or an interception. Fast-forward to the team’s Wild Card win against the Cleveland Browns, Stroud completed 76.2 percent of his passes for 274 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
He's clearly grown a tremendous amount as a passer, and a leader. On top of that, their head coach DeMeco Ryans was caught on a microphone teaching his linebacker how to intercept Joe Flacco, and that player eventually got a pick-six shortly after. Ryans is an excellent teacher, and Stroud has turned this offense into a juggernaut. This is a team that nobody wants to play right now.
As for the Ravens, Baltimore doesn’t want to get knocked out early in the postseason once again. Baltimore finished with a 13-4 record with two of those losses coming to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’ve decimated a few of the other top-tier teams in the league along the way. For example, they beat the Detroit Lions 38-6, the Seattle Seahawks 37-3, the Los Angeles Rams 37-31 in overtime, the San Francisco 49ers 33-19, and the Miami Dolphins 56-19.
There are two things that have really stood out throughout the season. The first is that they genuinely gave Lamar Jackson talented playmakers to make things happen in the passing game.
Odell Beckham and newly drafted wideout Zay Flowers have turned this offense up a notch. Oh, and who can forget that they might see Mark Andrews return to the field after missing multiple weeks due to an injury. The second thing is their pass rush, as they led the league with 60 sacks on the season. Yes, 60 of them. They know how to get after the passer better than anybody else, and harassing Stroud is the best chance they have of winning.
At the end of the day, I have full faith that Stroud and the Texans will be a tremendous team in the future. However, they’ve already exceeded expectations and I don’t think they are talented enough to beat this Ravens squad.
A Ravens team that has dominated the other great teams in the league and have a pass rush that can throw off even the best quarterbacks. Roll with Baltimore, but this game won’t be a blowout.
Ravens vs Texans Odds:
Whilst I might not think this game will be a blowout, the market is indicating otherwise, with Baltimore the 9.5pt favourites on the handicap. Although, as we saw last week with the Packers trouncing the Cowboys, big spreads can be overcome when it comes to playoff football!
You can back the Ravens at 2/9 on the Money Line with the Texans trading at 17/5 to pull off the upset, which is incidentally, the same price as Green Bay were a week ago in that aforementioned game.
The Total Points line has been set at a middle-of-the-road 43.5pts and no player is shorter than 11/10 to reach the end zone, with both Gus Edwards and Lamar Jackson available to back at that price as of the time of writing.
Bet 1 - Total Points Over 43.5 @ 10/11
Baltimore's D has been flat out brilliant all season-long, those 60 sacks is quite the number. Yet the best defense in the league statistically was the Cleveland Browns and we all saw what CJ Stroud did to them a week-ago.
Both teams can score points and whilst this may not be a shoot-out per se, seeing both teams clear the 20-point mark would not surprise me one jot.
Bet 2 - Odell Beckham Jr to score a touchdown anytime @ 2/1
This is more of a gut-feel selection, as the stats don't seem to suggest that OBJ is a great price to reach the End Zone on Saturday. The 31-year-old only caught 35 passes throughout the season, with only three of them resulting in a Touchdown.
However, one thing we know about this man is that he is a big game player and has been throughout his career. He averaged more than five catches per game during the Rams' run to Super Bowl LVI glory, with two scores. I'm sure there are a couple of long shots in the playbook ready to be called with him being the primary target down the field.
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