(8-4, 5-6-1 ATS)
(5-7, 5-7 ATS)
It’s gut check time on Monday Night Football for both the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans, as these two fight it out for their right to stay in a decent position in the playoff picture in the AFC.
Obviously, it goes without saying that the Ravens are still in great shape in the conference, as a loss would still keep them a game up on any other challengers for Wild Card slots in the AFC with just three games to play. However, Baltimore still has its sights set on the AFC North crown, and with that would probably come a bye in the first round of the playoffs. It is coming off of that debilitating loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week in the dying moments and must rebound quickly to take down a stingy Houston club that has proven it can beat some of the best in the league. QB Joe Flacco might be in for a field day going against Houston’s dreadful secondary, and it is imperative that both he and WR Anquan Boldin have good games. This passing attack only ranks No. 15 in the NFL at 233.2 yards per game, but there is no excuse for Flacco to throw for anything less than 275 yards against the worst secondary in the league. Boldin already has 770 yards and seven scores this year and should improve on those numbers quite a bit regardless of who he is matched up against on the outside.
This is the fourth straight season in which the Texans have been 5-7 after 12 games, and just like last year, the only hope to get into the playoffs is going to be winning out over the last quarter of the campaign. Winning out parlayed with any other loss by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts that aren’t to Houston will put it in the playoffs in all likelihood. Head Coach Gary Kubiak knows that this is the toughest task left this year, and a loss in this one, which would be Houston’s sixth in its last seven games, would probably leave him on the unemployment line by the middle of the week. The Texans know that their defense is going to be shredded week in and week out, so the onus is on the offense to make enough waves to win games. Lately, that has been a hard task, as this unit has been held down when it counts most in the fourth quarter. Still, RB Arian Foster is arguably the best rusher in the league, and he is certainly heading to the Pro Bowl in this, his first season as a starter for the Texans. QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson might not be far behind him. With a trio like this, Houston really should be averaging more than 372.9 yards and 24.0 points per game.
The season is about to come to an end for Houston once again without a playoff bid. Baltimore is just a significantly better team, and whether it chooses to run the ball into the ground with RB Ray Rice, or let Flacco and company air it out, it won’t make a difference. You aren’t getting into a shootout with the Ravens and living to tell about it, and that’s exactly what the Texans are going to find out on Monday Night Football.
NFL Free Pick: Baltimore Ravens -3