Monday Night Football Predictions: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens Odds & Picks
OK, once a year when previewing a rather bland Monday night game later in the season, I mention how great it would be if ESPN had the option to flex a better game into that slot. But that's unlikely to happen in the next TV deal because it's a lot different moving a game from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night than it is from Sunday to Monday night. So there it is.
It really has been a rather lousy season of "Monday Night Football." I'm looking back on the entire schedule and other than the first MNF game of the season, Saints-Vikings, the rest have all included at least one mediocre-to-bad team other than last Monday's matchup between the Falcons and Seahawks. I hope you enjoyed that exciting game because the rest of the schedule looks lopsided in one team's favor: Steelers-Bengals (Cincinnati is below average), Patriots-Dolphins (Miami stinks), Falcons-Bucs (Tampa is one of NFL's biggest disappointments) and Raiders-Eagles (Oakland is hugely underachieving).
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Clearly, I'm not overly excited about this Monday's game between the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens. But, I'm not here to judge a game's entertainment value, rather how to win money on it. This could have some wild-card implications down the line.
The Ravens (5-5) currently hold the final playoff spot in the AFC, thanks to a slightly better conference record over Buffalo (5-5), which should lose Sunday in Kansas City. Baltimore absolutely isn't catching Pittsburgh in the AFC North so it's wild card or bust - and I believe it's playoffs or bust for Coach John Harbaugh to keep his job (he'd get another one almost immediately). What works in Baltimore's favor is the chum behind it in the standings - there's not really one hot team. I'd say the Chargers (5-6) and Raiders (4-6) are the two best, but they play each other to close the season. Baltimore owns a tiebreaker over Oakland for what that's worth.
Houston (4-6) I give very little chance of a playoff spot because of that crushing injury a few weeks back to Deshaun Watson. The Texans are 11 th in the standings and still have likely losses next Sunday at Tennessee, Week 15 at Jacksonville and Christmas vs. Pittsburgh if the Steelers still have something to play for.
Texans at Ravens Betting Story Lines
Recent history says Baltimore will win the Super Bowl this year. Do I believe that? Of course not. However, last week the Ravens took advantage of having to face Brett Hundley instead of Aaron Rodgers and blanked Green Bay 23-0 at Lambeau. It was Baltimore's third shutout this season. Only four other teams have had three shutouts in the past 30 years (last 2003 Patriots). Three of those won the Super Bowl, including that 2000 Baltimore team that led by future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Rod Woodson that had one of the Top 5 defensive seasons ever.
It's a good 2017 unit, ranking No. 6 in yards allowed, No. 2 against the pass and No. 3 in scoring (17.1 ppg), but it's far from a great one. The Ravens have been fortunate to shut out one really struggling offensive team (Cincinnati) and two with backup quarterbacks (Miami and Green Bay). The Joe Flacco-led offense is why this team will be one-and-done if it makes the postseason. Baltimore is 31st in yards and 17th in points (21.3 ppg). Flacco's 74.4 QB rating is ahead of only four other qualifiers: Brian Hoyer, C.J. Beathard, Hundley and DeShone Kizer. Not exactly the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Flacco is hoping to get back Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley this week. He missed the Green Bay game with a concussion.
No team has been hit harder by injury in terms of star power this season than Houston, which lost arguably the NFL's best defensive player in J.J. Watt and most exciting young quarterback in Watson to season-ending injuries. I still don't understand why the team didn't sign Colin Kaepernick when Watson went down - other than for non-football reasons. Kaepernick isn't a better option than Tom Savage?
Savage may have saved his job for the time being in last Sunday's 31-21 win over Arizona, Houston's first victory since Watson went down. Savage was solid enough, completing 22 of 32 for 230 yards, two touchdowns and a pick to end Houston's his team's three-game skid. It was the first multi-TD game of his young career. DeAndre Hopkins had four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown going against the Cardinals' Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson. Hopkins leads the NFL with nine TD catches.
The Texans played without No. 2 WR Will Fuller, who has seven TD catches despite getting a late start to the year due to injury. He's dealing with cracked ribs and questionable for Monday. The coaching staff was just starting to trust rookie running back D'Onta Foreman more as a solid No. 2 behind Lamar Miller as Foreman had career-highs of 65 yard and two scores vs. Arizona. Alas, he suffered an Achilles' injury and is finished for 2017. Running back Andre Ellington, who was released by the Cardinals this week, was claimed by the Texans. He might slide right into the backup role because Alfred Blue is dealing with a hamstring injury. Ellington can't run much but is a solid pass-catcher. His cousin Bruce is a receiver on the Texans.
Texans at Ravens Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Baltimore is an 8-point favorite (+110) with a total of 38. On the moneyline, the Ravens are -310 and Texans +255. On the alternate lines, the Ravens are -7.5 (+105) and -7 (- 115). Houston is 6-4 against the spread (3-1 on road) and 6-4 "over/under" (2-2 on road). Baltimore is 5-4-1 ATS (2-2 at home) and 6-4 O/U (2-2 at home).
Houston is 3-9 ATS in its past 12 after a win and 1-9 ATS in its past 10 on Monday. The Ravens are 5-1 ATS in their past six on Monday but 6-13-1 ATS in the previous 20 vs. teams with a losing record. The under is 5-1 in Baltimore's past six in November. It's 4-1 in the past five meetings.
Texans at Ravens Betting Prediction
The teams have met 10 times including playoffs, with the Ravens leading 7-2. They lost that last one, though, 25-13 late in the 2014 season. Flacco was picked off three times, while current Vikings starting QB Case Keenum was in that role for Houston then.
I'm not sure Baltimore should be favored by 8 over anyone other than maybe Cleveland. Only way the Ravens cover that number is with at least one defensive or special teams score. Take Houston +8 and the under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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