Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2020 Week 12 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (6-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)

I did a double take when I saw this spread was posted at just a touchdown in favor of the Steelers, after the announcement of further COVID absences by the Ravens, including quarterback Lamar Jackson, and the rescheduling of this game to Tuesday Night. Originally, the Ravens were 4 point underdogs in this game, but somehow the absence of Jackson and others only moved this spread by 3 points. I was strongly considering betting the Steelers at -4 even with Jackson in the lineup, so getting them at just -7 now with backup Robert Griffin in the lineup is a great value.

I have been saying for weeks that the Ravens are overrated as their offense isn’t close to last year’s group. Even before losing their most important offensive player in Lamar Jackson, the Ravens were already down arguably their three most important offensive players from last year in right guard Marshal Yanda (retired), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (broken leg week 8), and tight end Nick Boyle (season ending knee injury week 10). With Jackson at quarterback all season, the Ravens have fallen all the way to 28th in first down rate over expected at -2.40%. Now also missing starting center Matt Skura, Marshal Yanda’s replacement at right guard Patrick Mekari, and two of their top-3 running backs JK Dobbins and Mark Ingram due to positive COVID tests, the Ravens are going to have a very difficult time scoring against the Steelers league best defense.

The Ravens are still solid on defense, ranking 12th in first down rate allowed over expected at -0.56%, but they’re not at 100% on that side of the ball either, with top defensive lineman Calais Campbell out and possibly fellow starting defensive linemen Brandon Williams and Justin Madubuike as well. Campbell hasn’t played since week 9 and this defense hasn’t been the same without him. The Steelers aren’t without their own absences, most notably talented defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt who also tested positive for COVID, but it’s nothing close to what the Ravens are dealing with. My calculated line has the Steelers favored by 10.5 points, even with no fans in the stadium. I love Pittsburgh at 7 and even if you can’t get this line before it likely goes up, the Steelers should still be worth a bet this week, depending on how high it goes.

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Baltimore Ravens 9

Pick against the spread: Pittsburgh -7

Confidence: High

Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens: 2020 Week 11 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (6-3) at Baltimore Ravens (6-3)

The Ravens opened as 7-point favorites in New England last week, which immediately stood out to me as too high, but I understood it. The Patriots were just 3-5 and coming off of a near loss to the Jets, while the Ravens were 6-2 and hadn’t been exposed by all of their injury absences. However, after the Ravens lost that game straight up and lost another key player to injury in Nick Boyle, I thought we’d see a significant swing on this line, after it was favoring Baltimore by a touchdown over the Titans a week ago, but the line only shifted down one point to 6. Some of that could be due to the Titans’ losing 34-17 at home to the Colts, but the Colts are a quality team and the Titans led that one in the third quarter before special teams snafus and they finished the game positive in first down rate differential at 3.99%.

The Ravens were #1 offensively pretty much across the board in 2019, but they have fallen all the way to 28th in first down rate over expected this season. My roster rankings suggest they have underachieved compared to their talent level, which means they could easily be better in first down rate going forward, but even my roster rankings have this as a middling offense, as this is simply not the same offense as last year due to personnel losses, so even if they improve, they’ll be a far cry from last season’s team.

Already down stud right guard Marshal Yanda due to retirement, the Ravens lost their other stud offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley back in week 8 and then last week they lost Boyle, who is probably the best run blocking tight end in the league and a huge part of what this run heavy offense does. Boyle is legitimately a sixth offensive lineman as a run blocker, but he’s also reliable enough as a pass catcher to hurt you on play action, which made him such a valuable chess piece for this offense. This offense already hasn’t been catching teams off guard like it did last year and now down probably their best three blockers, it’s going to be so much tougher for this offense to execute the way they want to. I wouldn’t expect them to be more than a middling offense at best going forward.

The Ravens’ defensive play has remained above average, ranking 10th in first down rate allowed over expected, after ranking 7th last season, but this isn’t quite the same unit right now that they’ve had for most of the season. Cornerback Jimmy Smith may return from a 1-game absence this week, but they’ll be without starting defensive lineman Brandon Williams and, more importantly, top defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who was sorely missed against New England and will miss his second straight game this week. Defense is less predictable on a week-to-week basis than offense to begin with, but with the Ravens missing key players, it could be tough for them to avoid a regression on defense. 

The Ravens aren’t a bad team, but they’re not the kind of team that should be laying significant points against a capable opponent like the Patriots and, even more so, like their opponents this week in the Tennessee Titans. If the Ravens being favored by a touchdown against the Patriots was too much, then them being favored by 6 points against the Titans is way too much. This game is in Baltimore rather than New England, but with neither stadium allowing fans that barely matters.

The Titans have just a +14 point differential on the season, are 6-3 on the strength of a 4-1 record in games decided by one score, and rank just 19th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential, but the good news is their offense has played very well, which is the more consistent side of the ball, while their defense has struggled. The Titans rank 5th in first down rate over expected at 2.48%, but just 29th in first down rate allowed over expected at 2.58%. If their defense can be even somewhat improved going forward and their offense continues to play at a high level, this is a team that could be very tough for anyone to play, like they were down the stretch last season.

I liked the Titans more earlier in the week, before their injury reports, as they will be without key players on both sides of the ball. Left tackle Taylor Lewan (5th game missed) is out for the season, but top cornerback Adoree Jackson had a shot to make his season debut this week, while edge defender Jadeveon Clowney (2nd game missed), slot receiver Adam Humphries (4th game missed), left guard Rodger Saffold (1st game missed), and possibly center Ben Jones (would be his first game missed) will be out as well. 

Even with those key players missing though, I still have the Titans slightly ahead in my roster rankings, so getting a full six points with them is a great value, especially with the Ravens being in a tough spot with another tough game against the Steelers on Thursday Night Football on deck. Favorites of a field goal or more cover at just a 43% rate all-time, which will make things even tougher for the Ravens this week. My calculated line is even, so even with the Titans’ injury situation, I like them enough to be my Pick of the Week.

Update: It doesn’t change anything since the Titans are already my Pick of the Week, but it’s good to know that Tennessee will have Ben Jones available for this one.

Tennessee Titans 24 Baltimore Ravens 23 Upset Pick +235

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +6

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots: 2020 Week 10 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (6-2) at New England Patriots (3-5)

The Patriots have gone just 3-5 in their first season without Tom Brady, at one point losing four straight games for the first time since 2002 and only snapping that losing streak by squeaking out a field goal win over the Jets last week. Things haven’t been quite as bad as they sound though. The Patriots have lost a lot of close games, going 1-3 in games decided by one score or less and, if you exclude a game in which they were within a score of the Chiefs with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter despite starting a backup quarterback, the Patriots are 2-1 on the season in games decided by more than a touchdown. The Patriots have also faced an above average schedule and, when adjusted for schedule, have a -0.92% first down rate differential that is only slightly below average. 

Even better, the Patriots’ issues have primarily been on the defensive side of the ball this season, as they rank 10th in first down rate over expected at +1.25%, but just 23rd in first down rate allowed over expected at +2.17%. The defensive side of the ball tends to be the much more inconsistent side of the ball and the Patriots’ offense, while not being the passing game we’re used to from them, is still pretty effective at moving the chains, especially on the ground, and has one of the best offensive lines in the league. 

As bad as their near loss to the Jets was, the Patriots actually exceeded expectations on offense with a 39.47% first down rate against a Jets defense that isn’t hapless, ranking 20th in first down rate allowed over expected. The problem was their defense surrendered a 40.91% first down rate to an offense that had been anemic all season, but defensive issues are easier to fix week-to-week and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is one of the best of all-time at defensive adjustments. It’s also very possible the Patriots got caught looking forward, facing a last place Jets team before this Sunday Night Football game against Baltimore. I would expect a better effort this week.

The Patriots’ schedule gets harder this week as the Ravens are obviously a much tougher opponent than the Jets, but not as much as you might think. This once dominant Ravens offense ranks just 27th in first down rate over expected at -1.86% and, while they are better than that on paper, they are also missing their top-2 offensive linemen from last season in Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley and, with defenses catching on to how to defend this offense, it looks less and less likely that the Ravens will consistently find their 2019 form again this season. 

The Ravens have still played well defensively this season, ranking 9th in first down rate allowed over expected at -1.94%, but defensive play is much more inconsistent on a week-to-week basis than offensive play and the Ravens are missing a pair of key players this week with defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback Jimmy Smith sidelined. Given all that the Ravens are missing, this line is too high at a touchdown.

I’m going to bet the Patriots at least a little bit at +7, but unfortunately the Patriots have listed 17 players questionable this week, including cornerback Stephon Gilmore and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, who missed last week’s game against the Jets and may be needed if this defense is going to bounce back, so I’m leaving this as a small bet until we get more clarity before gametime. This could easily end up being a higher confidence pick though, depending on injuries.

Baltimore Ravens 27 New England Patriots 24

Pick against the spread: New England +7

Confidence: Medium

Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts: 2020 Week 9 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (5-2) at Indianapolis Colts (5-2)

Typically I like to go against significant week-to-week line movements as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play and this line has shifted from Baltimore -4 on the early line last week to even this week, but this line movement is understandable. Not only did the Ravens lose the game at home last week to the Steelers, but they also lost arguably the top left tackle in the league in Ronnie Stanley and, to add to that, they had a COVID outbreak this week that disrupted their practices and will cost them at least top cornerback Marlon Humphrey, as well as potentially others. Given that, four points of line movement is pretty reasonable.

In fact, I don’t think the line movement went far enough. I had this game circled last week as a likely bet and we’re still getting line value at even, given all that the Ravens are missing. Even when healthy, the Ravens haven’t been nearly as good this season as they were last season, especially on offense. A big part of the reason why was the retirement of right guard Marshal Yanda, whose replacements have been a massive downgrade, and now without Stanley as well, the Ravens’ chances of bouncing back offensively take a serious hit. The Ravens have been strong on the defensive side of the ball this season, but Humphrey is a big absence and they could be without fellow defensive back Jimmy Smith as well.

The Colts, meanwhile, are relatively healthy, most notably getting dominant linebacker Darius Leonard back from a two and a half game absence last week, and have been slightly better on both sides of the ball thus far this season than the Ravens, even before these teams went in opposite directions injury wise. In my roster rankings, I have the Colts a couple points better, so they should be favored by at least a field goal here at home with limited fans. This isn’t a big play because the line has moved so much, but the Colts should be the clear favorite in this one, so this line is still mispriced.

Indianapolis Colts 24 Baltimore Ravens 20

Pick against the spread: Indianapolis PK

Confidence: Medium

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens: 2020 Week 8 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-0) at Baltimore Ravens (5-1)

The Steelers are the NFL’s last remaining undefeated team, but they are still underdogs of 3.5 points in this game in Baltimore, 4 points at some points. That may sound unusual and it is, as this is the just 4th instance of an undefeated team being underdogs of this many points this late in the season over the past 30 seasons, but that doesn’t mean the Steelers are necessarily a smart bet, as the previous 5 teams to be underdog of this many points despite being undefeated in week 7 or later are just 1-3-1 ATS. That alone is not a reason to take the Ravens either, but it shows that there’s usually a good justification for an undefeated team being underdogs of this many points.

In this case, it’s perfectly understandable, as the Ravens are at home with at last some fan support and they are the defending AFC #1 seed, coming off of a 14-2 season, and their only loss this season came in Kansas City against the Chiefs, who are the defending AFC Champions. The Ravens played much worse in that game than the 34-20 final score suggests though, getting 11 points of value from special teams (return touchdown and a missed extra point and makeable field goal), not scoring on offense until the 4th quarter, and losing the first down rate battle by 9.54%. 

That Kansas City game significantly brings the Ravens down on the season in first down rate differential, as does their first down rate battle loss (-4.31%) to the Eagles in a mere 2-point win in the Ravens’ last game prior to their bye. A year after ranking far and away the best team in the league in first down rate differential (+6.34%), the Ravens rank just 17th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential in 2020 at +0.30%. The Steelers haven’t been much better though, despite not losing, ranking 13th in schedule adjusted first down rate differential at +1.45%. Despite facing one of the easiest schedules in the league, the Steelers have won just one game by more than 10 points and that came against a Browns team that was starting an injured Baker Mayfield. 

Both teams have lived up to expectations on defense, with the Steelers ranking 4th in first down rate allowed over expected at +4.72% and the Ravens ranking 7th at +3.21%, but they’ve been very disappointing on offense, ranking 29th at -3.28% and 27th at -2.91% respectively. Both teams should be better offensively going forward, but ultimately the Ravens should have a much higher ceiling on offense. The Steelers may have a slight edge on defense, but the Ravens are strong on that side of the ball too and are overall the better team. My calculated line is Baltimore -4, so we’re not getting much line value with the Ravens, but I do like that they’re coming off of a bye, as John Harbaugh at 20-8 ATS with extra time to plan. That’s not enough for the Ravens to be worth betting, but they should be the better pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Baltimore Ravens 25 Pittsburgh Steelers 20

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -3.5

Confidence: Low

Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles: 2020 Week 6 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (4-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-3-1)

The Ravens had a stinker of a performance at home against the Chiefs week 3, a 34-20 loss that was worse than the final score, as the Ravens got 11 points of benefit from their special teams, didn’t score an offensive touchdown until the 4th quarter, and lost the first down rate battle by 14.50%, but, despite that terrible game, the Ravens still rank 7th in the league in first down rate differential at +4.12%. Even more encouraging is the fact that the Ravens have been led by their defense, which was their more questionable side of the ball coming into their season, as their 4th ranked defense (33.63% first down rate allowed) has made up for an offense that actually ranks just 20th in the NFL in first down rate at 37.76%. 

The Ravens’ offense will almost definitely be better than that going forward, as they’re obviously more talented than that on paper, so, if their defense continues to play at a high level, the Ravens have a good chance to end up as the top ranked team in the league in first down rate differential again at the end of this season, after leading the league by a wide margin with a +8.87% rate last season (the 49ers were 2nd at +5.29%). Even with their relatively “slow” start to this season, the Ravens still have a +8.64% first down rate differential over their past 16 games, including that loss to the Chiefs and their playoff loss to the Titans last year, which also happen to be their only losses over that 16-game stretch. 

Even more impressive, of the Ravens’ 14 wins over that stretch, 12 of them have come by 14 points or more and in total they have a ridiculous +262 point differential over those 16 games, which would be the 4th best differential in a single 16-game season in NFL history if the Ravens had done it across a single season, rather than split between the two. My calculated line suggests this line is about right, favoring the Ravens by 9.5 points in Philadelphia, but that might be giving too much weight to that one loss to Kansas City and not enough weight to the Ravens’ tendency to blow teams out, particularly inferior opponents like the Eagles, who are in especially bad shape this week without injured right tackle Lane Johnson. This is a no confidence pick because we’re not getting real line value with the Ravens, but the Ravens should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Baltimore Ravens 34 Philadelphia Eagles 24

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -9.5

Confidence: None

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens: 2020 Week 5 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (1-2-1) at Baltimore Ravens (3-1)

The Bengals picked up their first win of the season last week and I think they’re an underrated team going forward. They were better than their 2-14 record last season, ranking 24th in first down rate differential, and I expected them to be noticeably better than that this season, with the Bengals adding quarterback Joe Burrow atop the draft and getting their left tackle Jonah Williams and top wide receiver AJ Green back from injuries than cost them all of 2019. So far, the Bengals rank 18th at -0.25%. They have just one win, but they’ve been competitive in all four games and they should be better going forward, with stud defensive tackle Geno Atkins set to make his season debut after missing 4 games due to injury.

Unfortunately, that probably won’t translate to the win column right away, as Atkins’ first game back is probably the toughest game of the Bengals’ season, in Baltimore against the Ravens. In addition to the Ravens being a really tough opponent, this is also a really tough spot for the Bengals. While the Ravens have an easy game in Philadelphia on deck, the Bengals have another tough game in Indianapolis next week. Favorites of 6+ are 124-75 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again, while underdogs of 6+ are 74-107 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs of 6+ again.

Combining the two, favorites of 6+ are 39-11 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again when their opponent will be underdogs of 6+ again the following week. Good teams tend to take care of business against bad teams without upcoming distractions on their schedule, while bad teams tend to struggle to keep it close against good teams with another tough game on deck. All of those conditions should be true this week, which hurts the Bengals’ chances of keeping this competitive. I’m still taking the Bengals for pick ‘em purposes as 13-point underdogs because they typically keep their games close and my calculated line is just 8.5, so we’re getting significantly line value with the visitor, but I wouldn’t recommend putting money on this one.

Baltimore Ravens 28 Cincinnati Bengals 17

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +13

Confidence: Low

Baltimore Ravens at Washington Mascots: 2020 Week 4 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (2-1) at Washington Mascots (1-2)

The Ravens lost at home to the Chiefs last week 34-20 in a game that was not nearly as close as the final score suggested. The Ravens got 11 points of benefit from special teams, returning a kick, while the Chiefs missed an extra point and a makeable field goal, and the Ravens’ offense didn’t actually get into the end zone themselves until the fourth quarter. Overall, the Ravens lost the first down rate battle by 14.50%, not only their worst single game regular season performance since Lamar Jackson took over as the starter in the middle of the 2018 season, but also their third loss to the Chiefs over that stretch, accounting for all but one of their regular season losses.

The Ravens are also 0-2 in the playoffs, but their 2018 loss came before Lamar Jackson developed as a passer, and their 2019 loss to the Titans was largely decided by the Ravens going 0 for 4 on 4th down and having a -3 turnover margin, two very inconsistent metrics and very uncharacteristic for the Ravens over the past couple years. The Ravens did lose the first down rate battle in that game, but only by 3.24% and it came against a red hot Titans team. Prior to last week, that playoff game was the Ravens’ only first down rate battle loss since week 9 of 2019, a now 13-game stretch in which they have 9 wins by at least 16 points and 7 wins by at least 10% in first down rate differential. Even including last week’s embarrassing loss, albeit to one of the top teams in the league, the Ravens are still on a very impressive stretch right now.

I like their chances of picking up another blowout victory this week, playing a team that is one of the worst in the league when healthy and that is now missing arguably it’s top player on both sides of the ball, guard Brandon Scherff on offense and edge defender Chase Young on defense. The Ravens are also in a great spot, with only another easy game against the Bengals on deck, while Washington has another tough game on deck against the Rams. 

Favorites of 7+ are 102-59 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 7+ again, while underdogs of 7+ are 55-90 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 7+ again. Combining the two, favorites of 7+ are 27-5 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 7+ again when their opponent will be underdogs of 7+ again the following week. Good teams tend to take care of business against bad teams without upcoming distractions on their schedule, while bad teams tend to struggle to keep it close against good teams with another tough game on deck. All of those conditions should be true this week.

This game is in Washington, but with no fans in attendance and the Ravens only coming from about an hour away in Baltimore, it’s hard to see any real homefield advantage in this game, so, while this line may seem high at 14, it’s arguably a little low. Given that, and the great spot the Ravens are in, I like the Ravens’ chances a lot of making this a blowout. My only concerns are that the Ravens hold out injured players like left tackle Ronnie Stanley, Jimmy Smith, and Derek Wolfe against an easy opponent and/or they take their foot off the gas in the second half and allow a backdoor cover, although that’s probably less likely with the Ravens needing to get right after last week. This is a medium confidence play for now, but if all the aforementioned players are active, I may increase this bet tomorrow morning.

Baltimore Ravens 30 Washington Mascots 10

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -14

Confidence: Medium

Kansas City Chiefs at Baltimore Ravens: 2020 Week 3 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at Baltimore Ravens (2-0)

This is arguably the biggest game of the early season so far. Not only could it be an AFC Championship preview, but it could also decide the #1 seed in the AFC, as the winner would have a one game lead and the tiebreaker. That #1 seed is especially important under the new playoff format because, not only would the #1 seed host that eventual AFC Championship as usual, but also they would avoid playing on wild card weekend, which #2 seeds now have to do. In addition to the present implications of this game, this is also the third installment in what looks like it could be a long-time rivalry between the two best young quarterbacks in the game in Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, who have won the last two MVP awards respectively.

The Chiefs are defending Super Bowl champions and won the previous two matchups between Mahomes and Jackson in 2018 and 2019, but despite that they are 3.5-point underdogs in Baltimore, where the Ravens won’t even have the benefit of normal homefield advantage. This line might not seem huge, but about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less and this is the most points Patrick Mahomes has been given as an underdog since his 3rd career start back in week 2 of 2018 (Mahomes is 4-0-2 ATS all-time as an underdog). 

That being said, I actually like the Ravens in this one. These two teams haven’t met since week 3 of last season and the Ravens are a much more complete team now than they were in either of their previous two matchups, primarily due to Lamar Jackson’s continued emergence as a passer and the addition of top cornerback Marcus Peters on defense. The Ravens have won their last 10 meaningful regular season games by an average of 22.2 points per game and, while their home playoff loss to the Titans is a black mark on their recent record, that game largely swung on an highly uncharacteristic -3 turnover margin and 0 for 4 on 4th down by the Ravens. Even including that game, the Ravens have a ridiculous +12.39% first down rate differential in their last 11 meaningful games.

The Chiefs are on a strong run of their own, winning their last 11 games, including three playoff games, with a +7.90%% first down rate differential over that stretch, but that number is still significantly behind the Ravens’ recent run, even if strength of schedule is factored in. The Ravens also have the obvious edge in this early season, with a +11.09%% first down rate differential, compared to +2.19% for the Chiefs. 

My roster rankings also give the Ravens a 3-point edge, suggesting they should be favored by 4.5 or 5 points, even with the diminished homefield advantage. The Chiefs have some question marks on their offensive line and defense, while the Ravens are a more complete team overall. I wouldn’t recommend betting on this if only because it’s silly to ever bet against Mahomes as underdogs of this many points, but the Ravens have the edge on paper and it wouldn’t surprise me if they ended up winning more easily than most people expect.

Baltimore Ravens 34 Kansas City Chiefs 27

Pick against the spread: Baltimore -3.5

Confidence: Low

Baltimore Ravens at Houston Texans: 2020 Week 2 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (1-0) at Houston Texans (0-1)

This is a tough one. On one hand, you can definitely make the argument that the Texans are a good enough team that they shouldn’t be home underdogs of this many points (7.5) against anyone and this line has swung pretty significantly in the past week, from 5.5 on the early line last week to 7.5 this week. My roster rankings have the Texans calculated as 4 point underdogs, even factoring in diminished homefield advantage, so from that standpoint, we’re getting some line value. On the other hand, the Ravens are on a truly otherworldly run in their last 9 meaningful regular season games dating back to last season and it might be foolish to go against them regardless of the line, as my roster rankings may not adequately take into account how well the Ravens have played since about the middle of last season. 

Dating back to last year’s week 8 bye, the Ravens have a ridiculous +15.50% first down rate differential and a +205 point differential in their last 9 meaningful regular season games. That would be impressive if a team did it in a full season, let alone in 9 games (22.8 points per game). The Ravens lost right guard Marshal Yanda and safety Earl Thomas this off-season, a pair of key players from last year’s team, so I thought we might be able to get some value going against them early this season, but they didn’t seem to miss them win they posted the league’s best first down rate differential (+17.39%) in their week one blowout victory over the Browns.

The Ravens did lose in the first round in the playoffs last year, after resting their starters in a meaningless week 17 game, but they didn’t play as badly as the 28-12 final score suggested, as the game swung entirely on the Ravens -3 turnover margin and 0 for 4 on fourth down, two highly inconsistent metrics and two things highly uncharacteristic of this Ravens’ team. The Ravens lost the first down rate battle in that game (their only instance of doing so since week 7 of last season), but only by 3.24% and it came against a Titans team that was legitimately one of the best in the league last season. If I had to make a pick against the spread for pick ‘em purposes, I would take the Texans just because they are a solid team and they have so much room for cushion as 7.5 point underdogs, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Texans played a good game and still lost by multiple scores.

Baltimore Ravens 27 Houston Texans 20

Pick against the spread: Houston +7.5

Confidence: None