HOUSTON TEXANS (2-0)
at BALTIMORE RAVENS (1-1)
Kickoff: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Line: Houston -2.5, Total: 48.5
After winning on the last play for two straight weeks, the Texans are hoping there won’t be as much drama on Sunday when they visit the Ravens.
Houston was able to eke out a 30-24 overtime win versus the Titans in Week 2, and although star WR Andre Johnson took a shot to the head late in the game, he has passed all his concussion tests and appears to be on track to start on Sunday. The Ravens, who escaped with a 14-6 home win over Cleveland last Sunday, also have a key offensive player questionable with RB Ray Rice’s hip flexor strain. Baltimore won the first six meetings in this series (4-2 ATS), but Houston ended that skid last year with a 43-13 shellacking, outgaining the Ravens 420 to 176. The Texans have thrived in evenly-matched games, going 8-0 ATS when the line is +3 to -3 over the past three seasons, but Gary Kubiak is just 5-15 ATS (25%) in games played on turf as the Houston head coach. Baltimore is 26-12 ATS (68%) in home tilts after allowing 75 rushing yards or less in its previous game since 1992. However, home teams where the line is +3 to -3 after scoring 14 points or less in their previous game are just 37-71 ATS (34%) in the past five seasons.
Will the Ravens provide payback for last year's lopsided loss? For the answer, connect to NFL Best Bets for all the StatFox Experts picks throughout the 2013 season and playoffs. During the 2012 campaign, the experts combined for a 52% ATS success rate in NFL Best Bets, highlighted by StatFox Brian's 60% ATS mark (36-24-2 ATS) and StatFox Dave's 53% ATS accuracy (44-41-4). StatFox Scott and StatFox Gary dominated NFL Totals, with Scott going 57% (38-29-1) and Gary cranking out a 56% clip (28-22-1) during the season, capped off by a perfect 4-0 run in the postseason.
The Texans have not been playing their best football, but QB Matt Schaub has had a strong start to the season, completing 65% of his passes for 644 yards (6.9 YPA), 6 TD and 3 INT. His two most-used receivers have been WRs Andre Johnson (NFL-high 29 targets) and rookie DeAndre Hopkins (19 targets), who have combined for 405 receiving yards in the two games. In last year's blowout of Baltimore, Schaub threw for 256 yards and two touchdowns with Johnson catching 9-of-10 targets for 86 yards. But Schaub has also leaned on his tight-end tandem of Owen Daniels and Garrett Graham for a combined 21 targets this year, leading to 14 receptions for 148 yards and five touchdowns. While the air attack is in good hands, there is a bit of a running back controversy in Houston with RB Ben Tate (8.2 YPC) greatly outperforming All-Pro RB Arian Foster (3.7 YPC), outgaining Foster but getting less than half (18) of the carries that Foster does (37). However, Foster was more efficient in last year's meeting with Baltimore, rumbling for 98 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries (5.2 YPC), while Tate gained 47 yards on 10 carries (4.7 YPC). The one negative for the offense on Sunday is that All-Pro LT Duane Brown is questionable with a turf toe injury. Although Houston has allowed 26.0 PPG so far, the defense hasn't played all that badly, allowing just 312 passing yards on 5.3 YPA and 199 rushing yards on 3.8 YPC. The defense is hoping former Ravens FS Ed Reed can make his debut with the team after missing the first two games with a hip injury.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco was downright horrible in last year's loss to the Texans, completing 21-of-43 passes for 147 yards (3.4 YPA), 1 TD and 2 INT. Flacco has had his moments so far this season, but his numbers aren't spectacular at 59% completions for 573 yards (6.0 YPA), 3 TD and 2 INT. He's done a nice job with ball distribution though, as five Ravens have already garnered a dozen targets. WR Torrey Smith has been his go-to receiver with 22 targets, resulting in 11 catches for 177 yards. With No. 2 WR Jacoby Jones out with a knee injury, WR Marlon Brown has filled in nicely with eight catches for 110 yards and two scores. Two veterans the team picked up during training camp, WR Brandon Stokley and TE Dallas Clark, have eight catches each. RB Ray Rice had a tough day against Houston's defense last year, totaling 54 yards on 14 touches. He actually had a much better yards-per-carry average (4.7) than yards per catch (2.4) in that loss. Rice hasn't done much this year either with 4.0 yards per catch and 2.9 yards per carry. If he is unable to go, RB Bernard Pierce will handle the rushing load. Pierce actually has three more carries than Rice this season, but has averaged a paltry 2.8 YPC. After being gashed for 510 yards and seven touchdowns by the Broncos in Week 1, Baltimore's defense was a lot more nasty against the Browns, holding them to 259 total yards and six points. However, three key defenders are all listed as questionable for this game due to injuries, DT Brandon Williams (toe), CB Jimmy Smith (concussion) and LB Arthur Brown (pectoral).