AFC Divisional Round picks: Who the experts are taking in Ravens vs. Texans

We’re a little over 30 hours away from the Ravens (13-4) and Texans (11-7) kicking off the AFC divisional round of the playoffs on ESPN.

Houston advanced to the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs for the fifth time in franchise history with a 45-14 win over the Browns in Super Wild Card Weekend.

The playoff win earned the Texans a rematch against the Ravens, and they’ll return to M&T Bank Stadium hoping to avenge a 25-9 loss in Week 1.

With kickoff fast approaching, here’s the NFL expert picks.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette--Ravens

Gerry Dulac is picking Baltimore in a shootout.

It would be advisable for the Ravens, even playing at home, not to go to sleep on the Texans, not with the way C.J. Stroud has been playing, not after what they did to the Browns. The Ravens are clearly the best team in the AFC with Lamar Jackson and an improved group of receivers. But Jackson has to prove he can perform in the postseason, something he hasn’t done. He has a 1-3 playoff record, has thrown more interceptions (five) than TDs (three) and has a passer rating of 68.3, which is nearly 30 points lower than his regular season rating (98.0)

Prediction: Ravens, 34-31


Eight of the ten experts at ESPN are picking Baltimore.

Bleacher Report--Split

The experts at Bleacher Report are split down the middle on Ravens-Texans.

The Sporting News--Ravens

The Sporting News is picking Baltimore at home.

How far have the Texans come with Stroud and first-year coach DeMeco Ryans since a 25-9 loss to the Ravens in Week 1? Stroud took five sacks from five different players in that loss, and Baltimore likely won’t deviate from that game-plan much. Stroud will be the same high-volume passer, but he’s up against a unit that had as many interceptions (18) as it allowed passing TDs (18) this season. Baltimore’s offense had just 265 yards and a pair of turnovers in the first meeting with Houston – which allowed just 56 rushing yards in the victory against Cleveland. Can the Texans’ make the Ravens one dimensional and keep Jackson contained? If they do, then they will have a chance late. Ultimately, Baltimore breaks out of the defensive struggle in the second half, and Jackson will get his first shot at an AFC championship game.

Pick: Ravens 27, Texans 20

CBS Sports --Ravens

Pete Prisco is pickig Baltimore to win a close game.

The Texans are coming off an impressive home victory over the Browns, while the Ravens are coming off a bye. The rest could be good for the Ravens, but the starters haven’t played in three weeks. That might matter. This will be the first road playoff game for Texans rookie passer C.J. Stroud, which can be a challenge. It can be even tougher against the Ravens stout defense. They will throw a bunch of different looks at Stroud. How he handles those will be key. Lamar Jackson will be the league MVP, but he has to go out and show he can do it in a playoff game. The pressure is on. But I think in this offense he will respond. Look for a lot of points as both quarterbacks play well, but the Ravens will win a close one behind Jackson.

Pick: Ravens 30, Texans 29

The Athletic--Ravens

The Athletic is picking Baltimore in this rematch of a Week 1 outing.

The Ravens went 6-3 this season against teams that made the playoffs (two losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers), including a 3-0 mark against teams still standing. They beat the Texans 25-9 in Week 1.


All but one expert at North is picking Baltimore.

USA Today--Ravens

All seven experts at USA Today are picking Baltimore.


All five experts at are picking Baltimore.

Maybe C.J. Stroud is on the type of heater that makes some of the conventional wisdom/metrics obsolete. I’m one more Texans win away from feeling confident we’ve reached that place, and maybe I’ll be late to the party. For now, though, I’ll say the phenom will meet his match in Baltimore. The Ravens’ defense ranked first in completion percentage, pass yards per attempt, pass TD-to-INT ratio and passer rating allowed on deep passes during the regular season, per Next Gen Stats. But that’s only slightly better than the Browns’ marks in those categories, and Stroud just obliterated them. The bigger difference is Houston will be on the road on Saturday and its defense will be lining up across from the likely league MVP instead of on-his-last-legs Joe Flacco. After three weeks of rest, Lamar Jackson outduels his young counterpart and slays the Divisional Round demons that have haunted him for years.

The MMQB --Ravens

Albert Breer and the guys at The MMQB are picking Baltimore.

Athlon Sports --- Ravens

All three experts at Athlon Sports are picking Baltimore.

Baltimore Sun--Ravens

All five experts at the Baltimore Sun are picking the Ravens.

Both teams are drastically different from the first time they met in Week 1, so forget just about everything from that game. Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud is playing at an elite level and Houston’s two tight ends, Dalton Schultz and Brevin Jordan, are capable of destroying defenses on intermediate and deep routes and especially over the middle, an area of the field the Ravens have at times been vulnerable. But don’t read as much into Houston’s blowout of the Cleveland Browns last week, either. Stroud torched the Browns when they blitzed, and the Ravens are only middle of the pack in blitz rate along with boasting one of the league’s best pass rush win rates. Then the game got out of hand when Joe Flacco threw a pair of interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. Houston’s defense, meanwhile, is strong against the run but one of the worst against the pass, particularly down the field. Expect Baltimore to lean on Lamar Jackson to strike early, set up the run, take an early lead then zero in on Stroud. If Houston can force an early turnover or two and control the clock with the running game, things could get uncomfortable for the Ravens. But the more likely scenario is for Baltimore to do what it has done all season: harass Stroud, get out in front and lean on its defense and ground game to close it out.

Story originally appeared on Ravens Wire