Monday, November 27 | 8:30 PM
The Ravens at 5-5 are still in a playoff-qualifying position because…well, to be honest, the rest of the AFC is just not that good. It’s one of those years where, save for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots (and dare I say it, the Jacksonville Jaguars?), no other teams have consistently stated a case for real consideration as a post-season threat.
The Houston Texans (4-6) present a must-win challenge for the Ravens this Monday night if anything other than continued mediocrity is to come of Baltimore’s so-called “second season” chance to trend up into a 5th or 6th seed playoff spot.
The Ravens will wear their black jersey, black pants combination for the primetime matchup, which is a popular look for both the fans and the players. That’s considered a good-luck charm in Baltimore. The Ravens are 13-4 when they’ve donned the blackout look. It’s also Baltimore’s first home Monday Night Football game since 2012. This will be only the second time in head coach John Harbaugh’s 10-year tenure that the Ravens will host a Monday home primetime game.
Because of all the stumbling and bumbling by so many AFC early contenders like Kansas City and Buffalo, ESPN says the Ravens are “suddenly in excellent position” with a 73 percent chance of advancing to the playoffs. The next biggest threat is nowhere close. It’s the San Diego Chargers with 22.8 percent odds, followed by the Texans (9.5 percent), Buffalo Bills (8.7) and Cincinnati Bengals (6.2).
Of course that’s playing the games ahead on paper. We all know how that often does not translate to the reality of individual players faced with the physical issues of running, blocking, tackling, throwing, catching and kicking under pressure. It’s going to take more than paper matchups to get the Ravens to 9 wins—which you’d think is the realistic number they’d need to reach to salvage a playoff spot.
They better get past the wounded Texans on Monday night or this entire conversation is moot.
Statistical projections say the Ravens will finish with nine wins, but both Kay Adams (Good Morning Football) and NFL Network’s Maurice Jones-Drew see a path to 10 victories. That would be an incredible feat, as it would double the Ravens’ wins by beating five of the next six opponents.
The schedule ahead “looks” easy for the Ravens. Jones-Drew envisions the Ravens’ season unfolding like this:
Week 12: Houston Texans ———-> Win
Week 13: Detroit Lions ————–> Win
Week 14: at Pittsburgh Steelers —> Loss
Week 15: at Cleveland Browns —-> Win
Week 16: Indianapolis Colts ——–> Win
Week 17: Cincinnati Bengals ——-> Win
But anyone who’s watched every game played by the Ravens so far in 2017 knows you can’t take any opponent for granted, regardless of their records. As Sarah Ellison of the Ravens’ media site admits, “As good as the defense looked against the Green Bay Packers, Ravens fans have seen their team unexpectedly falter this season. The Chicago Bears (with a rookie quarterback’s first road start) and Tennessee Titans (surrendering a late game-winning touchdown drive) losses won’t allow anybody to get cocky.”
“The defense might be strong enough to carry the Ravens to victory in any of their six remaining games, but the offense is also inept enough to lose each of those contests, making these final six weeks all the more unsettling despite the favorable circumstances,” wrote WNST’s Luke Jones.
“Their third road win of the season and a very favorable environment in the AFC have established the Ravens as clear-cut playoff contenders, but they still have a long way to go to prove they can be any sort of a viable threat to make noise if left standing in January.”
Although decimated by injuries, this Houston Texans team is no pushover. The Texans had lost three in a row, including two games that came down to the final seconds against Seattle and Indianapolis. Yet, last Sunday, they came through with a 31-21 victory against Arizona.
QB Tom Savage was good, made some key throws. The running game wasn’t always hugely effective against the Cardinals stout defensive front but the Texans still piled up 134 yards on the day.
Jadeveon Clowney was brilliant again on Sunday. He’s the focus of every team’s offensive game plan and he’s just taking over the game. Every game. He finished with five tackles, two sacks, three tackles for a loss and three quarterback hits. The great thing for Houston is that he’s doing that with regularity and getting better each and every week, too.
Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will present a huge challenge to the Ravens secondary.