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Ravens News 11/18: Super Bowl favorite and more

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NFL: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Week 11 ReFocused: Baltimore Ravens 41, Houston Texans 7 - PFF

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Another video-game style run will make all the highlight reels, but beyond that, this was another competent display from Lamar Jackson as a passer. His accuracy didn’t wow, and he was short on big-time throws, but he limited mistakes and made every play he could to give his team the best possible chance.

Matched up mostly with Whitney Mercilus, Ronnie Stanley will walk out feeling he got the better of the matchup. There was one bad loss on a spin move, but besides that, rarely did we hear Mercilus’ (or any pass-rusher he went up against) name called. That’s indicative of the season Stanley is having — it’s an All-Pro season in the making.

After a swarming team effort that forced a great many Houston errors, if any player stood out on defense, it was the active Matthew Judon. He set the tone with his early forced fumble while being a consistent force around the line of scrimmage.

Domata Peko joined the Ravens this week and showed the team exactly what they would be getting. The big defensive tackle made life tricky for the Texans’ interior with a solid debut against the run.

What we learned from Sunday’s Week 11 games - Kevin Patra

The Ravens defense smothered, walloped and discombobulated Deshaun Watson all game. The quarterback rarely dropped back to throw without getting hit, sacked, or having a defender in his grill. A first-possession fumble in which Watson was trying to spin wizardry made a loud statement from the Baltimore D: There will be no magic today. And there wasn’t. For the day the Houston offense earned a brutal 4.1 yards per play. Watson was sacked [seven] times and completed just 18-of-29 for 169 yards, zero scores and an INT.

While the seven total sacks stand out for Baltimore, credit the Ravens secondary for suffocating everything downfield. Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith gave Watson zero openings, latching onto Texans targets like caterpillars to leaves. The lock-down secondary allowed DC Don Martindale to bring a bevy of rushes into Watson’s lap play after play. Martindale’s unit is only getting better as we press toward the postseason.

The Ravens crushed the Texans, making the case that they are the AFC’s Super Bowl favorite - Mark Maske

For the first half of this NFL season, the outcome of the AFC playoffs looked like a forgone conclusion. The New England Patriots, with their historically dominant defense, would coast to yet another Super Bowl appearance, probably after a rematch with otherworldly quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game.

Then Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens intervened.

And now, as December nears and the regular season enters the stretch run, a case can be made that the Ravens — not the Patriots — are the AFC’s Super Bowl favorite. The Ravens bolstered that case here Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium as Jackson did more wondrous things, their defense roughed up Deshaun Watson and they overwhelmed the Houston Texans, 41-7.

The Ravens beat another playoff-contending AFC team, and did so convincingly. They have a record of 8-2. They have a top league MVP contender in Jackson, the second-year standout who has become the epitome of the modern-day, dual-threat NFL quarterback. They own a victory over the Patriots.

The Breakdown: Five Thoughts on Ravens vs. Texans - John Eisenberg

If I recall correctly, one of the Ravens’ biggest concerns coming in was that nose tackle Michael Pierce would miss the game with a foot/ankle injury, possibly opening the door for Houston’s high-ranked rushing offense to have a big day. Well, that never happened because, yet again, General Manager Eric DeCosta found replacements who could step in and play immediately. Josh Bynes, Marcus Peters and others did so earlier in the season, and this time, veteran defensive tackles Justin Ellis and Domata Peko took over Pierce’s load without a beat being missed. Carlos Hyde’s late touchdown run made the Texans’ stats look decent, but they didn’t do anything on the ground when the game was up for grabs. Head Coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens’ blueprint for winning began with dominating the rushing game on both sides of the ball.

Lamar Jackson Has Blown Open the MVP Debate—and the Ravens May Be the NFL’s Most Complete Team - Danny Heifetz

Everything has turned around on defense since the team acquired Rams cornerback Marcus Peters for pocket change in Week 7. In his first game, Peters pick-sixed Russell Wilson as the Ravens held Seattle to a season-low 16 points. When the Ravens returned from their bye week, Smith returned from his knee injury, making Baltimore’s secondary their strength once again. Houston’s game on Sunday was their worst by total yardage (232) and tied for the fifth-lowest yards per attempt in a start of Watson’s career (5.8). The game likely would have been a shutout if not for a Carlos Hyde touchdown run that came when the score was 34-0 in the fourth quarter.

Baltimore’s offense is fantastic. Anyone who watches them knows this, but the numbers match the eye test. They lead the league in yards per drive, points per drive, plays per drive, and time of possession per drive. But adding a defense that can suffocate a playoff-caliber offense like Houston’s makes their win over the Patriots three weeks ago look even more legitimate. Even their special teams is ranked as the fifth-most efficient unit by Football Outsiders, which stems from John Harbaugh being a special teams coach by trade and Justin Tucker being the league’s best kicker. The Ravens nearly shutting out the Texans may have been a shock, but if they keep rising as the season goes on, nobody will be surprised.