NFL Picks: Texans vs. Ravens in Week 3

Jason Lake

Thursday, September 19, 2013 6:37 PM GMT

The Houston Texans are 0-2 this year against the NFL point spreads. The Baltimore Ravens got creamed in Week 1, and barely escaped Week 2. What will happen when they meet this Sunday?

 

Check out our NFL Week 3 Betting Odds Report for additional information on this week's games! 

We’re in a tight spot. On the one hand, we’ve got the Houston Texans, who are 2-0 SU and 0-2 ATS after mounting late comebacks to beat the San Diego Chargers (+5 at home) and the Tennessee Titans (+7.5 away). On the other hand, we’ve got the Baltimore Ravens, who literally self-destructed in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos (–7.5 at home) before getting into a defensive war with the Cleveland Browns, surviving 14-6 as 5.5-point home faves.

Yeesh. Picking between these two for Sunday’s matchup (1:00 p.m. ET, CBS) is like having to choose between cholera and bubonic plague. Except that’s an easy choice – take the cholera every time (Ed. note: Less itchy). It’s not so cut-and-dried on the Week 3 NFL betting lines, where the Ravens are 2.5-point road dogs, up from +1 at the open with nearly two-thirds consensus on Houston.

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High Hopes

I was optimistic about both these teams going into 2013, probably more so than most of my contemporaries. Yes, the Ravens were coming off a surprise Super Bowl run after a middling regular season, but that was a regular season where injuries (most notably to LB Terrell Suggs) kept Baltimore from operating at full capacity. I had similar feelings about the Texans, who were strong ATS in the early weeks of the 2012 campaign before LB Brian Cushing was lost for the season.

Two weeks is definitely too early to hit the panic button, but you could sense that Baltimore’s season was in trouble after just two quarters. The Ravens were up 17-14 on the Broncos at half-time; however, in the process, they lost both WR Jacoby Jones (sprained MCL) and massive RT Michael Oher (sprained ankle) to friendly-fire collisions. Baltimore has scored a total of 24 points in the six quarters since those key players were hurt.

Texas Toast

Meanwhile, our friends in Houston appear to have regressed to the mean, even with Cushing back in the lineup. The Texans finished 2012 ranked No. 11 overall in terms of efficiency, with a brilliant defense (No. 4 overall), a middling offense (No. 16) and the worst special teams in the league at No. 32. Houston went 12-4 SU (9-7 ATS, but 2-5 ATS down the stretch) despite posting just 10.2 Pythagorean Wins and 8.3 Expected Wins, as per Football Outsiders.

We only have two games to go with for 2013, but the numbers aren’t looking good for the Texans. They’re at No. 16 in Value Over Average (not yet adjusted for opponents), including No. 15 on offense, No. 11 on defense, and No. 31 on special teams. In other words, they are who the statheads thought they would be, except worse on defense instead of better. Perhaps it was asking too much for the Texans to improve from No. 4 overall in that department.

How Low Can You Go?

If either of these teams has any upside at the moment, it’s Houston. The Ravens offense is clearly in trouble; Jones was their only established deep threat after Anquan Boldin was traded to the San Francisco 49ers, and TE Dennis Pitta (61 catches, seven TDs last year) is out until at least Week 9 with a broken hip. Oher is back, but not at 100 percent, and Baltimore now has to deal with RB Ray Rice and the hip flexor strain he suffered against Cleveland. Rice could be a game-time decision this Sunday.

With a total of 45 on the NFL odds board, I’d be thinking about taking the ‘Under’ in this situation. But for an ATS sports pick, I’ll have to grit my teeth and take Houston. Just make sure the nurses are ready with my sedatives.

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NFL Pick: Take the Texans point spread, –2 (-110) at William Hill

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