NFL Game of the Week: Houston Texans vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 11 of the NFL is upon us, and it’s highlighted with a top-tier AFC matchup, as the AFC South-leading Houston Texans (6-3) travel to M&T Bank Stadium to face off with the AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens (7-2) at 1 p.m. The matchup everyone will be looking for is the one at quarterback, as MVP candidates Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson meet for the first time in their careers.
After a 2-2 start to the season, the Texans have won four of their last five games and have a two-game win streak going. The hot stretch includes wins over the Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Deshaun Watson-DeAndre Hopkins combination through the air has been lethal recently. The star receiver has had two 100-yard performances and two touchdowns over the last three games.
Houston is coming off a bye, so it will be ready to roll on Sunday afternoon. Last time out, the Texans battled with division rival Jaguars in London and dominated 26-3. Watson led the offense with 201 yards passing and two touchdowns. Running back Duke Johnson ran in a score as well, and Hopkins caught his fourth touchdown of the season.
On defense, the Texans didn’t look like they missed a beat after three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J Watt was ruled out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle suffered against the Raiders in Week 8. Houston only gave up three points to the Jaguars and shut them out in the second half. The Texans put pressure on Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew and forced him to make some ill-advised passes that led to interceptions. However, this defense will have its hands full this week with Lamar Jackson of the Ravens.
Like Houston, the Baltimore Ravens have been scorching hot over the last few weeks. The Ravens also started the season with a 2-2 record but have won their last five games. Baltimore has beaten Super Bowl contenders like the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots along the way.
Last week, the Ravens steamrolled the winless Cincinnati Bengals 49-13. Jackson continued his domination of the NFL with his second perfect passer rating this season. He threw for three touchdowns through the air and ran in a fourth with an insane 47-yard run. Jackson leads all quarterbacks in rushing by a large margin with 695 yards. In nine games last season, Jackson had 702 yards on the ground, showing that he hasn’t regressed in the run game one bit.
Baltimore has weapons all over the field on offense. Running backs Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards leads the ground attack alongside Jackson. Through the air, the Ravens do an excellent job of utilizing their tight ends. The trio of Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst finds gaps in the defense and is a huge target in red-zone situations. Also, the speedy wide rookie receiver Marquise Brown is getting healthier each week and is a legitimate deep threat every time he steps on the field.
Defensively, Baltimore is not that bad either. The team swarms to the ball and forces lots of turnovers. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey has emerged as a star, and newly acquired cornerback Marcus Peters already has two interceptions returned for touchdowns for the purple and black this season. Safety Earl Thomas has also been great for the Ravens in the secondary.
This will be an offensive showdown at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Watson and Jackson will be spectacular, but the team that wins the turnover battle and the defense that shows up at the end of the game to get a stop will win. All things considered, that team is more likely than not to be the Ravens.
Prediction: Baltimore 27, Houston 24
Matthew McClure is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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