Houston Texans (2-0) at Baltimore Ravens (1-1)
The Ravens have been one of the premier home teams in the NFL over the past few seasons, going 24-3 at home since 2010. As a result, they’ve only been underdogs at home a grand total of twice in that time frame, losing once at home to Peyton Manning and the Broncos last season and then winning once at home as dogs last year against the Giants, after they had previously lost 3 straight. Given that, I don’t think the Texans deserve to be favored in Baltimore.
The Texans have not played well thus far this year, barely beating both Tennessee and San Diego. They won 12 games last year, but were not nearly as good as that would have suggested. Their Pythagorean Expectation was that of a 10 win team as they went 5-0 in games decided by a touchdown or less. They also faced a very easy schedule, recovered an unsustainable high percentage of fumbles that hit the ground, and played their worst football down the stretch, which might have carried over somewhat into this season. They finished last year 11th in overall DVOA and 19th in weighted DVOA, which puts a higher weight on their later games.
That’s not the type of team that deserves to be favored in Baltimore, especially since left tackle Duane Brown, one of the best in the NFL, probably won’t play. Ray Rice, meanwhile, won’t suit up for the Ravens, but it’s much easier to replace him with talented backup Bernard Pierce than to replace one of the game’s premier blindside protectors with Derek Newton.
The trends also favor the Ravens. They are home dogs here before being road favorites next week in Buffalo. Teams are 55-34 ATS since 2002 in that situation. Meanwhile, the Texans are road favorites before being home dogs next week when Seattle comes to town. Teams are 37-62 ATS in that situation since 1989 as long as the game is non-divisional.
Put it all together and you get that teams are 6-2 ATS since 1989 as home dogs before being road favorites when their opponent will next be home dogs. I know it’s a very small sample size, but I think the fact that this is only the 9th time this situation has happened in 24 years is telling. The Ravens will be completely focused on this game, while the Texans could be caught looking forward to what they might see as a Super Bowl preview against Seattle next week. There’s a very good chance that Baltimore takes advantage and wins at home. They’re a great home team and Houston is a comparable, but not superior opponent.
Baltimore Ravens 23 Houston Texans 17 Upset Pick +115
Pick against spread: Baltimore +2.5
Confidence: Pick of the Week