The Divisional round of the NFL 2023 Playoffs gets underway with a double header of action on Saturday night with both of the number one seeds looking to make it through to their Championship matches. We begin in the AFC where the Baltimore Ravens host the Houston Texans.
The Ravens watched on last week while the Texans overcame the Browns and as ever at this week in the season it will be interesting to see whether the week off and the fresher team is a help or a hindrance.
The Baltimore Ravens were the best team in the NFL in the regular season but they only had to look at last week to see that counts for nothing now. It is all about on the night but the Ravens go into this match fresh having had the week off last week and pretty much the week off the one before when they rested a number of starters in their final regular season game which had nothing on it as far as they were concerned. That sounds like a good thing and in terms of nursing injured players it is but three weeks without a competitive hit out can allow rust to set in.
The Ravens have had one of the best defences in the league, which we have been used to them having for some time, but this season, especially at home, they have been rampant on offense. If they turn up with that level of offense then they are going to be very tough to beat. In seasons gone by the Ravens probably would have had to get the job done along the ground but Lamar Jackson has improved so much and the weapons around him are much stronger that Baltimore can get it done in any way these days.
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The Houston Texans have already won two do or die matches this season and if that doesn’t fill them with confidence then nothing will. C.J. Stroud is playing Super Bowl winning levels at quarterback at the minute and the rest of the team is rallying around their young quarterback but at some point you would imagine the inexperienced triggerman will work out where he is and it will be interesting to see if he can play with the same freedom and quality as he has to this point so far.
You get the feeling that if the Texans are going to win this they will need their defence to play as well as it did last week when it had Joe Flacco on toast. Sitting and pouncing on his mistakes and forcing mistakes out of Lamar Jackson are two different things entirely though and whether they can do it remains to be seen. If not Stroud is going to need to be at his best to lead the Texans home in a shootout. They have nothing to lose though which is one positive.
I think the Baltimore Ravens will win this but I’m in no rush to back a team to cover what is approaching a double figure start after near enough three weeks off when winning is their only aim. At the same time I’m not really in a rush to back the Houston Texans given that they have a rookie quarterback playing in a game of this magnitude so I will open up the Divisional round of games with a bet from the player props.
That comes in the form of Zay Flowers to cover a 49.5 yard receiving line. The rookie has been making big strides over the course of the season and in three of the last four matches he has played he has gone over this line and done it with a bit to spare. In the opening week of the season when these two met in his first match in the NFL, Flowers caught nine passes for 78 yards. He has covered this line in 10 of the 16 matches and hit 48 in another so he is used to covering this line and against a largely zonal Houston pass defence I expect him to cover again.
Back Z.Flowers – Over 49.5 receiving yards for a 3/10 stake at 1.83 with Betfair