Houston @ Baltimore
Houston +9½ -109 over Baltimore

Posted at 10:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.

Pinnacle +9½ -105 - BET365 +9½ -110 Sportsinteraction +9½ -110 888Sport +9½ -110

Houston +9½ over Baltimore

1:00 PM EST. The Texans come off yet another bad year with a 3-13-1 record that included no home wins. Subsequently, the Texans moved on from HC Lovie Smith to DeMeco Ryans, who last ran the defense for the 49ers. He brought QB coach Bobby Slowik to take over the offense. C.J. Stroud became the 1.02 pick when the Texans opted to draft an elite quarterback instead of "making do" with the cast of players that have gone through the Texans offense. They brought in Devin Singletary, Robert Woods, and Dalton Schultz to upgrade a struggling offense. The franchise needs help in every area and on both sides of the ball, but they found their running back last year with Dameon Pierce and C.J. Stroud should solidify the offense for many years but that’s a story for another day. On this day, we’re only concerned about where the value lies. No matter how you break it down, Houston’s stock is as low as any team in the NFL with the exception of perhaps the Cardinals. That makes us buyers, at least in Week 1.

As for C.J. Stroud, the Ohio State star, was taken with the second overall pick this year and after throwing for over 40 touchdowns in each of his two years as the starter. Stroud is a pocket passer and won't run unless chased. He lacks any known stud receivers but has enough talent to learn the ropes and win a few games along the way. He ushers in optimism about the future, even if the present may not start well. At least that’s what the media and market are selling. Baltimore is the biggest favorite in Week 1.

The 10-7 Ravens snuck into the playoffs despite dropping their final two games and then promptly lost to the Bengals in the Wild Card Round. However, Cinci was lucky to escape. The Ravens lost to the hated Bengals 24-17 on 98-yd scoop and score. To make matters worse, they outgained Cincinnati 364-234. The Ravens swapped offensive coordinators from Greg Roman to Todd Monken and there's genuine excitement with the new offensive scheme. So join us in saying goodbye to former offensive coordinator and future St. Louis BattleHawks head coach Greg Roman, and say hello to former Georgia OC Todd Monken, whose job will be to draw up plays that don’t end with Lamar Jackson desperately heaving the ball to Mark Andrews. Monken’s last NFL job was as OC in Cleveland under Freddie Kitchens, which ended precisely the way you think it did. His job before that was running the Jameis Winston/Ryan Fitzpatrick Bucs offense. Funny how going back down to the college ranks and joining a historically loaded program in Georgia improved Monken’s reputation after all of that. John Harbaugh always fixes his offense two years too late.

Speaking of Lamar, it’s still Lamar Jackson. After sitting out that aforementioned Wild Card game, the Ravens slapped the rare non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson after putting him out on the market. No team offered Lamar a contract after that, because of collusion and because Jackson opted for a combination of himself, his mom, and unauthorized Florida Men as his representation, instead of just hiring an actual agent. Bereft of options, he turned around and inked a fat contract to stay put. Everyone is happy. For now. We are too because we get to sell Baltimore and Lamar at a pretty hefty price.

Here’s what else the media is selling: the Ravens have won and covered six of their past seven season openers with a 28 point average margin of victory in those wins. That’s appealing for those looking for Week 1 “safe bets” to kick things off. However, Since 2003, there have been only 31 games where the Week 1 spread was 9 points or higher. Favorites are 26-5 straight up but only 9-22 Against the Spread (ATS) in those games. We have a database of coach and QB factors too, and since 2003, there have been only 39 Week 1 games where a team was an underdog of 4½ points or more while playing its first game with a new head coach. The underdog with the new head coach is 24-15 ATS over that span. There have been only 15 games where the underdog of 4½ points or more was starting a rookie QB in Week 1 in the last 20 years. The team starting the rookie QB is 10-5 ATS. We have admittedly small sample sizes in these real-life cases of rookie QBs and coaches, but the proof is in the pudding that the market does overvalue certainty and teams/coaches/QBs it has seen before, and there is value on the new coaches and young QBs in their debut, when getting a lot of points.

For what it’s worth, Lamar Jackson got paid and the Ravens will play on Monday Night Football next week at Washington. For Lamar and the rest of the team, this might feel like a glorified practice. Grab the inflated points.


Our Pick

Houston +9½ -109 (Risking 2.18 units - To Win: 2.00)