Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET
History was made last week as 10 Black quarterbacks started under center in Week 1, the most ever for a season opener in NFL history. Two of those QBs will cross trail-blazing paths in Houston.
Lamar Jackson has obviously already etched his name in football lore, even at just age 23. Last year, he became the fourth African-American quarterback to be voted the league’s MVP — and the second-youngest player ever to do it! — while also being the second unanimous choice in history to win this award (take a guess who the other was… yeah, Brady).
Not only did the unstoppable dual-threat finish 2019 with the third-highest passer rating among all starting quarterbacks (113.6) and lead them in touchdown passes (36), he also broke Michael Vick’s record for most rushing yards by a QB (1,206) in a single season. If you are old enough to remember playing Madden 04, you should especially appreciate how special that is.
Most notably from a betting perspective, Jackson engineered football’s highest-scoring offense (33.2 points per game). His unique talents led the Ravens to become the first team in at least 70 years to average more than 200 passing yards and 200 rushing yards each week. I mean, it’s pretty clear Jackson is a bonafide star.
Any naysayers that may have doubted his ascension were hushed right out of the gate in Week 1. In fact, the former Louisville Cardinal was nearly perfect — literally; his 152.1 passer rating was just a handful of ticks below the highest-possible mark of 158.3 — while topping the club’s hefty average point total from a year ago with 38 points opposite a satisfactory Browns defense.
Today, he’ll get a unit that is regularly tormented by Patrick Mahomes. After falling 34-20 to the Chiefs on opening night, Houston’s defense has now been victimized for 109 points by this opponent in three straight games, dating back to last year. Jackson, a comparable talent to the fellow MVP Mahomes, faced the Texans once in 2019 and hung up 41 on the scoreboard.
The Ravens are for real despite their anticlimactic postseason exit and it’s apparent they’re picking up right where they’d left off. Being viewed as a huge game, there’s no way Jackson just lets up.
The same can certainly be said of his counterpart, Deshaun Watson, who thrives in big games, and always has since his Clemson days. Just take a look at the numbers he’s posted in primetime games up to this point throughout his NFL career: 116.6 passer rating, 22 touchdowns and only four interceptions — and that’s across a three-plus-year sample size.
True, this game isn’t taking place at night, instead occurring in the latter 4 p.m. ET window, but it’s that similar mindset Watson will bring into battle when he goes up against the reigning MVP and someone he’ll always share a spot in the history books with. Don’t think last weekend’s historic achievement by Black QBs is unbeknownst to the two signal-callers starting in this Week 2 encounter.
When he’s at his best, Watson is unquestionably one of the league’s upper echelon quarterbacks. The loss of DeAndre Hopkins definitely hurts, but he still has enough talent around him when Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks are both out there and healthy. Plus, he has an improved running game to work with, too.
The beautiful thing about this particular matchup is that relative to the over/under, the Texans offense doesn’t necessarily have to play a starring role for the total to go over. So long as this Jackson-led group clocks in and produces something along their usual average, Houston hanging around with another juggernaut offense like last week is what will decide this bet.
ThePlay: OVER 50 (-110)
The Record: 1-0, +1 unit
Last Week: Dolphins-Patriots Under 41.5 (WIN)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit