In preparing for Sunday’s matchup against the Houston Texans (+10), Battle Red Blog’s Scott Barzilla and I sat down for a small Q&A for one another’s publications.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. The Texans have undergone a flurry of change this offseason. With such an overhaul, where are the Texans’ expectations heading into Week 1?
I think Houston fans are more excited than they have been since 2019 and even then it was tempered because Bill O’Brien was already starting to grate on the fanbase. DeMeco Ryans has been a breath of fresh air and no one is quite sure what they are going to see on Sunday. In terms of concrete expectations I think there are two things to consider. First, this team has more talent than it has the past few seasons. However, the second point is the most important. They are actually trying to use their talent in the best way possible. That seems like a simplistic and obvious thing to say, but the past two coaches didn’t do that. I think that translates into an additional win or two beyond what the talent would normally bring. I think it all translates to six or seven wins. This team is realistically a year away from really competing for a playoff berth, but they will be good enough to scare some teams.
2. What can you tell Ravens fans about rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud? What were the reports about him in training camp? Preseason?
Stroud will not be a Lamar Jackson. He is definitely a pocket passer first. It remains to be seen whether he will use his legs or not. He has shown two strengths in camp and the preseason so far. First, when he is given time, he has excellent accuracy. He puts the ball in positions where only the receiver will get it and usually in stride so they can get yards after the catch. He has made some bad reads on occasion, but he usually doesn’t repeat the same mistake twice. That bodes well for later in the season. Week one might be a struggle as he didn’t see exotic defenses at any level, but I’m confident he will continue to improve.
3. Of course, along with taking Stroud No. 2 overall the Texans made a big move to land edge rusher Will Anderson. How has he looked and what can you tell us about the pass rush as a whole for Houston?
What is most impressive about Anderson is his motor. He will relentlessly work to make plays. Ryans will likely deploy him like he did Bosa, so he will move around on and off the line to take advantage of mismatches. I think he will be the defensive rookie of the year. I might be overly optimistic there, but you have a talented guy playing for a talented coach. That bodes well. I hate to put number expectations on any player. So much goes into actually getting sacks, but he is clearly a double digit sack type of player.
4. Who are two Texans players (one offense/one defense) Ravens fans should pay specific attention to in this game that aren’t household names?
On offense the answer is easy. Tank Dell flashed an ability to get open and get yards after the catch. It will be interesting to see how many times he will actually be targeted. He did not play with the first team at all in the preseason, so they may see him as a gadget guy, but he did have one punt return where he got 20+ yards. That was his only punt return, but they cut every other potential returner. On defense I’ll go Derek Stingley. Ryans will use him more as a premier cover corner and finally show off the skills that got him drafted number three overall in 2022. Steven Nelson has looked good at the other corner slot too. It could be a long day for the Raven’s primary wide receivers.
5. The line for this game, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, is a hefty Ravens -10. What do you think of this line?
Only the most rabid of Texans fan would pick the Texans outright to win this game. The Ravens clearly have more talent on both sides of the ball. However, it should be noted that QBs that did not play in the preseason were 3-8 in week one last year. Jackson will have rust and that offense might be a bit clunky. I think the Texans cover for that reason, but I would still predict a Ravens win. I might go something like 28-24 in a game decided by key turnovers.