Currently, the Ravens are listed as a seven-point favorite this week over the visiting Houston Texans (down from 7.5 when the lines first came out). While Ravens fans (many of whom are still uncomfortable with just how successful the team has become under John Harbaugh) may be uncomfortable being such heavy favorites, if I were a betting man I’d jump all over the purple and black this week.
Counting the quasi-bye week in 2008 (when Hurricane Rita forced rescheduling of, coincidentally enough, the Ravens-Texans game), the Ravens are 3-0 under Harbaugh following a bye week, with an average margin of victory of 19 points.
2008 Week 3 – Ravens 28 Browns 10
The Browns came into M&T Bank Stadium 0-2, and the Ravens ran them out of the building as Harbs and Joe Flacco improved their record at home to 2-0. Cleveland finished their season a dismal 4-12.
2009 Week 8 – Ravens 30 Broncos 7
Denver was sporting a nice shiny 6-0 record when they rolled into Charm City, having beaten Dallas, New England, and San Diego the previous three games. Josh McDaniels’ Broncos were coming off a bye of their own, but the Ravens stomped them back to earth. The 30-7 beating would be the start of Denver’s 2-8 tailspin to finish off the year as they ultimately missed the postseason.
2010 Week 9 – Ravens 26 Dolphins 10
The Dolphins were no slouches last year, at 4-3 with road wins over Green Bay and Cincinnati in Weeks 6 and 8, respectively, and a one-point (referee-aided, of course) loss to Pittsburgh at home in Week 7 when they came into M&T in Week 9. The purple birds outscored the fish 13-0 in the second half on their way to a 26-10 victory. Miami stumbled down the stretch (a trend that has continued into 2011), finishing 7-9.
All of this is to say that the Ravens have fared quite well after their bye weeks since Coach Harbaugh took the reins, and they’ve done so against decent – though admittedly, not playoff-caliber – competition.
The Houston Texans, when at full strength, should rightfully be considered heavy favorites to not only make the postseason in 2011, but to win the Peyton Manning-less AFC South running away.
Unfortunately for Houston – and fortunately for the Ravens – as currently constructed they are far from full strength, playing without their best players on both sides of the football. Wide receiver Andre Johnson went down with a hamstring injury in Week 4 against Pittsburgh, and will miss at least another game or two. Linebacker/defensive end Mario Williams tore his pectoral muscle last week against Oakland, and will miss the rest of the season.
While injuries are an unfortunate part of the game, they are nonetheless a very important part. The Ravens figure to get at least a couple of their injured starters back here in Week 6, and that, coupled with the Texans’ depleted roster, bodes very well for the team to continue their post-bye week success.
I won’t give away my score prediction – that’s reserved for the official Friday game preview here at the Nest – but I will say again that, if I was a betting man, I’d be all over that Baltimore -7 line.