The Baltimore Ravens put themselves in position for a wild card spot in the AFC with their recent performance but are still looking for a division title. The Ravens will try to keep the pressure on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North and push their winning streak to three straight when they visit the Houston Texans on Sunday. The Texans are mathematically alive but have some questions at quarterback.
Baltimore has won four of five and boasts a rushing attack designed by offensive coordinator and former Houston coach Gary Kubiak that is averaging 132.6 yards. Kubiak, who was fired by the Texans last season during an 11-game losing streak, has his new offense averaging 26.9 points behind another former Houston employee, running back Justin Forsett. First-year Texans coach Bill O’Brien has already guided the team to five more wins than it had last season but is looking for a solution under center after Ryan Mallett and Ryan Fitzpatrick were both lost to season-ending injuries.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Ravens -5.5. O/U: 41.5
ABOUT THE RAVENS (9-5): Baltimore sits in third place in the tightly-packed AFC North, a half-game behind Cincinnati and even with Pittsburgh, which owns the tiebreaker based on a better record within the division. The Ravens only have one more chance to make up a game in the division – Week 17 against Cleveland – and need some help from opponents of both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. “I’m excited about our team,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh told reporters. “I like where we’re at. We’re getting better and stronger, and I also think there’s room for improvement, which gives me a lot of encouragement and excitement, because we’ve yet to play our best game, by far.”
ABOUT THE TEXANS (7-7): The likely successor to Mallett and Fitzpatrick, rookie Tom Savage, has already been ruled out with a knee injury. O’Brien is letting a battle play out in practice this week between Thad Lewis, who was signed on Nov. 26, and Case Keenum, who was with the team in training camp before being cut and was re-signed off the St. Louis practice squad on Monday. “I'm going to keep that one close to the vest,” O’Brien told reporters of the decision. “Both these guys, Case and Thad, are out there working hard. Right up until game time, that's going to be the way it is.”
1. Lewis or Keenum could have the use of WR Andre Johnson (concussion), who passed the NFL’s protocol and returned to practice on Wednesday after sitting out last week.
2. The Ravens placed CB Asa Jackson (knee) on season-ending injured reserve on Monday.
3. Baltimore can clinch a playoff spot this week with a win and losses or ties by the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs, or with a win and losses by both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
PREDICTION: Ravens 25, Texans 13