WHO: Houston Texans (6-3) at Baltimore Ravens (7-2)
WHERE: M&T Bank Stadium
WHEN: Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, 1 p.m. EST
The Ravens take a five-game winning streak into this highly anticipated matchup starring quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. The game has huge playoff implications; a Ravens win puts them in stronger position for a first-round playoff bye, while a loss drops them behind the Texans in the playoff picture based on head-to-head tiebreaker.
As the Ravens look for their sixth straight win — which would be their longest regular-season winning streak since the 2000 Super Bowl season — here are three matchups to watch:
Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey vs. Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins
Humphrey remains on a Pro Bowl trajectory this season, and he has frequently shadowed the opponent’s top receiver. Strong and physical, he has been the prototypical shutdown corner this year, holding Odell Beckham Jr. to no catches through three quarters for the first time in his career.
Humphrey has also made the splash plays that eluded him in the past. He has two of the Ravens’ five defensive touchdowns and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He also leads the team in passes defensed (9) and is tied for second in tackles (33).
Hopkins is a three-time Pro Bowl pick who leads the Texans with 68 catches for 665 yards and four touchdowns. He has missed just one game in his career and has topped 1,000 yards in four of his previous six seasons. Last year, Hopkins finished with 115 catches for 1,572 yards. He has caught at least five passes in 12 straight games dating to last season.
Ravens TE Mark Andrews vs. Texans S Tashaun Gipson
Andrews leads the Ravens with 44 catches for 523 yards and five touchdowns, including a pair in the 49-13 win against the Cincinnati Bengals Nov. 10. He has been Jackson’s favorite target pretty much since Jackson assumed the starting role 16 games ago, and especially on third down; Andrews has 14 third-down conversions, more than twice as many as any other player besides Jackson (who also has 14).
Gipson has missed the past two games and has been limited in practice this week (back/wrist) but is expected to return to action this week after the Texans’ bye. He could draw the assignment of covering the Ravens’ tight ends, a tall order with Andrews, Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle all contributing. Gipson has 25 tackles and two interceptions this year, one of which was returned for a touchdown. The Texans’ pass defense ranks 29th in the league, allowing 277.3 yards per game.
OLB Matthew Judon vs. Texans T Laremy Tunsil
The Ravens know they need to set the edge, contain Watson and bring him down when they have the chance. Judon had a season-high six tackles against Cincinnati Nov. 10, and he led the Ravens with four quarterback hits on Tom Brady Nov. 3. Judon leads the Ravens in sacks (4) and quarterback hits (19, more than twice as many as any other player), but he has just one sack since Week 3. The Ravens have 16 sacks; only three teams have fewer.
Tunsil missed the Texans last game with a shoulder injury, but coming off the bye week he is expected to play. The No. 13 overall pick in the 2016 draft was acquired via trade from the Miami Dolphins just before the season began.
In addition to protecting Watson, Tunsil has been instrumental for a running attack led by Watson and Carlos Hyde (149 carries, 704 yards) that is averaging 142.8 yards a game, fourth-best in the league, and almost 5 yards a carry.
The Ravens’ offense is firing on all cylinders now, with the dynamic Jackson, a power run game, strong tight end play and a deep threat from Marquise Brown giving the Ravens multiple points of attack. The Texans have lost J.J. Watt for the season, which changes the equation. The Ravens’ defense will be tested, though, by Watson, Hopkins, Hyde and a fourth-ranked offense that averages more than 26 points a game. As long as the Ravens don’t beat themselves — Jackson has not thrown an interception in the past four games — they have just enough to prevail at home. Ravens 27, Texans 24.
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