It’s Monday Night Football! The Baltimore Ravens (5-5) are set to take on the Houston Texans (4-6) in a showdown where the stakes could be no higher. The Ravens are once again on the outside looking in on the playoffs. The Buffalo Bills stole the Baltimore Ravens’ wildcard position yesterday with their victory in Kansas City. However, the Baltimore Ravens can reclaim the berth with a victory tonight. If Baltimore losses, their playoff chances will take a major hit, and Houston will claw back into relevancy. The Baltimore Ravens will have an easier time against the Texans than once anticipated, as Houston is missing many key players. Three-time NFL defensive player of the year, defensive end J.J. Watt is on the injured reserve. Watt was injured in Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs when he suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his left leg. Outstanding rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is also on the injured reserve. Watson went down during practice with a non-contact ACL tear. Even without these stars, the game will be no cakewalk for Baltimore. Here are the three keys to a Ravens victory, along with my predictions of what the result will be.
Pressure Tom Savage
I hope I don’t sound like a broken record at this point because I feel like I say this every week. However, it is a very important point that needs to be addressed. The Ravens have faced a glut of backup and inexperienced quarterbacks this year. In fact, Baltimore has faced five of them. They include EJ Manuel, Mitchell Trubisky, Case Keenum (who doesn’t play like a backup), Matt Moore, and Brett Hundley. Baltimore will now face their sixth opponent with a question mark at quarterback. Tom Savage, the former Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback, now leads the Texans after the aforementioned injury to Watson. Tom Savage throughout his career has been very inconsistent in his caliber of play. This year, Savage has started four games for the Houston Texans, only winning one. His first start came in Week 1, as the coaching staff believed he was a better quarterback compared to Watson. Savage threw 13 times with a 53.8 completion rate, for 62 yards. He also fumbled the ball twice and failed to score any touchdowns. He was benched during the game for Watson and subsequently lost his starting gig.
When Watson sustained his injury, however, Savage returned to command. In his first game returning as a starter against the Colts, the Texans lost 20-14. Savage threw 44 passes, only completing 19 of them for 219 yards. He threw one touchdown, and no interceptions that game, but fumbled the ball twice again. The next week he improved to a 50% completion percentage, finding his receivers on 18 of his 36 passing attempts. He was only able to put one touchdown on the board, as the Texans lost 33-7 against the Rams. In that game Savage turned the ball over four times, twice throwing an interception, and twice fumbling the ball. Savage’s first win came against the Arizona Cardinals last week. He completed 22 of his 32 attempts, for 230 yards, and two touchdowns. Despite a strong performance, Savage threw an interception and lost a fumble.
The Baltimore Ravens can take advantage of Tom Savage by exposing him to extreme amounts of pressure. Savage obviously has a tendency to turn the ball over, something the Texans cannot afford to allow to happen against an AFC opponent. Constant pressure on Savage will force him to make rash decisions, and turn the ball over. Baltimore was able to do the same thing to Brett Hundley and the Packers last week, and it earned them the victory. The Ravens need to exploit this weakness if they want to please the blackout crowd at M&T Bank Stadium tonight.
Offense Must Capitalize on Turnovers
I find myself yelling at the Ravens offense through the television more than normal this season. I’m not quite sure if offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg can hear me, but I think he knows my concern with this offense. The Ravens forced five turnovers by the Packers but failed to capitalize on most of them. Brett Hundley threw two interceptions back to back on the first two drives of the game, but the Ravens only came away with a field goal. By halftime, the Ravens were only leading by 6 points. It is baffling that the Ravens could fail to convert turnovers into touchdowns for most of the game, but the problem was very clear. Unlike previous weeks where the wide receivers failed to make plays, Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin were able to be very productive for Baltimore. The main issue the offense dealt with was the offensive line. It seems that the strong wall that the line has been in recent weeks completely collapsed with the absence of the best left tackle in the NFL, Ronnie Stanley. It looks like Ronnie Stanley will return tonight against the Texans, so the Ravens offensive line should be back into tip-top shape. With a rejuvenated offensive line, the Ravens will need to capitalize on the turnovers that the defense should be able to generate with Tom Savage under the helm.
Return of the Run Game
Alex Collins was electric earlier in the season. His best game came in another critical primetime matchup against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8. In that game, Collins rushed for a career-high 113 rushing yards, on 18 attempts. In that game, Collins averaged about 6.3 rushing yards per attempt. Since then, the Ravens have played in two games, but Collins’ production has heavily dropped. In those two games combined, Collins has run the ball 33 times, but only gained 92 yards on the ground, an average of 2.8 yards per rushing attempt. It is not fair to drop all the blame on Collins, as the offensive line is partly to blame for last week, but the statistics are troubling. Collins needs to turnaround his production quickly if he wants to remain as the Baltimore Ravens running back, and he has a great opportunity to do so tonight, in Baltimore’s long-awaited home Monday Night Football game.
During the planning phase of writing this article, I was set on picking the Texans as the victor. However, while actually writing the article, I changed my mind. I initially thought the Ravens would choke this game away, but I have too much faith in this team right now to believe that any longer. Baltimore just pitched a shutout to a team that just went toe to toe with Pittsburgh last night. Baltimore is 11-1 in home primetime games under John Harbaugh, and the team is currently on a 9 game win streak in the same category. I believe this defense will give Tom Savage fits, and the offense will do enough to win. Hopefully, I don’t jinx this, but I’m calling the Ravens as the winners.
- Joe Flacco has his best game of the season, 250+ yards and 3 touchdowns.
- Alex Collins rushes for 50 yards on the ground.
- Defense produces 3 turnovers.
- Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon combine for 5 sacks.
- Breshad Perriman either doesn’t play or doesn’t catch any balls.
- Justin Tucker does not attempt a field goal.
FINAL SCORE: Ravens 21 – Texans 10