Almost all of the trends are favoring the favorites. They are competent in prime-time games, have a (slightly) better record than their visiting conference opponent, and just blasted the Packers in a 23-0 shut-out. The hosts’ QB is an annual Pro Bowl candidate, and their defense has held 2 teams scoreless in the past 3 weeks.
Oh, and the visitors have a true journeyman at quarterback.
Yet the point spread is relatively tight for this week’s MNF match-up between Baltimore and Houston. Perhaps casinos were impressed by Jadeveon Clowney in last Sunday’s 31-21 whipping of Arizona. But that’s not the same as going into Baltimore and dominating the proceedings.
Still, give the casinos credit. NFL lines for games between defense-minded teams should be tighter than college spreads anyway, and the opening line for BAL-HOU was set at (-7.5) so that it would take more than a TD to cover. But the line quickly came down and settled at (-7), meaning that bettors are comfortable taking Baltimore if a win-by-touchdown is a push, but not if it’s a loss ATS.
Who: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
When: Monday, November 27th, 8:30 PM EST
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, MD
Lines: Houston (+7) at Baltimore (-7) / O/U Total: (38)
The point spread is not the only interesting market for this MNF. The money line actually opened with Baltimore a slightly more-pronounced favorite. Wagers placed on Houston to upset the Ravens are higher-payoff the earlier they were laid down, meaning that ML action is leaning toward the Flock to prevail straight-up even while ATS action is trending the other way.
That could just mean that a plurality of ATS bettors are eagerly expecting a big game from Joe Flacco, while high-roller money line gamblers are going where the real lock is – Baltimore straight-up at home against Houston, a team which has struggled on Monday Night Football.
But the action could also imply a consensus about how the game will go. Touchdowns, not field goals, are expected to be scored despite neither team giving up many scoring drives. Baltimore’s defense has shown in the last 3 weeks that you had better get a big play on them and score quickly, or you won’t end up with points. Teams used to rolling on momentum once crossing the 50 yard line are being driven backward, out of field goal range.
A monster pass rush is helping. The Ravens were actually out-gained by the Pack last weekend, but sacked Brett Hundley 6 times and hurried him another 11. When a front-7 can create that kind of mayhem on the road, you know they’re the real deal.
Flacco’s offense lacks rhythm and communication at times. The feast-or-famine scoring punch of the hosts is a result of owning too many transient players. Like Seattle, Baltimore wins big when the defense is dominant enough to give Flacco endless opportunities in plus-territory.
Stop-gap Houston QB Tom Savage came alive with 230 passing yards against the Cardinals last Sunday, and D’Onta Foreman had 65 yards on just 10 carries. Crucially, the Ravens will be more stout against the run than the Cards were, forcing Savage to throw in less-comfortable down-and-distance against a quicker edge rush.
Without DeShaun Watson, the Texans’ ground game is modest. It won’t be enough to seriously threaten the Ravens and force run-blitzes from the secondary. Savage will be passing against full coverage, and under pressure anyway. We’re thinking Flacco can engineer 3-5 scoring drives while Houston is held to 75 yards rushing or less.
Take the Ravens to cover (-7).