Monday Night Football features a pair of teams without winning records, but there’s still intrigue around the Baltimore Ravens (5-5) and Houston Texans (4-6) nonetheless. What are we watching for when the two teams kick off at 8:30 p.m. ET at M&T Bank Stadium? Here are four things:
1. The quarterback play. This game features two of the statistically worst starting quarterbacks in the league. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco boasts a 74.4 passer rating with a 9-11 TD-interception ratio. Texans quarterback Tom Savage, who’s filling in with Deshaun Watson done for the year, has an even worse 71.2 rating with just four touchdowns, three interceptions and a whopping six fumbles lost in just four games. It’s no secret these two teams are where they are in the AFC standings because of the way their quarterbacks have played this season. There are a lot of things that determine the outcome of football games, but tonight’s clash might simply come down to which quarterback plays the least poorly.
2. If Savage is going to get the edge on Flacco, it’s likely going to be because of DeAndre Hopkins. Despite the shaky quarterback play of late, the Pro Bowl receiver has still been the one constant on the Texans. Even in the three games since Watson was sidelined with a season-ending knee injury, Hopkins still managed to post 273 yards and two scores on 17 catches. The Ravens have the stingiest secondary in the league, giving up just 165.2 passing yards per game. The matchup between Hopkins and Ravens corners Jimmy Smith (who’s questionable for the contest with an Achilles injury), Brandon Carr and maybe even rookie Marlon Humphrey could determine just how long of a night it might be for an inconsistent Texans’ offense against a red-hot Ravens defense coming off a shutout last week.
3. The Ravens’ backfield is always interesting to watch. Coaches gave Alex Collins the lead back role last week, but he failed to break out with that title against the Packers. With 20 carries, Collins managed just 49 yards, although he did add a score. Danny Woodhead is back from a hamstring injury and catching plenty of passes out of the backfield (he had five grabs last week) and backup Javorius Allen is still getting touches. Terrance West was inactive last week, but he could also eat into backfield carries if active tonight. The Ravens need a ground game to help Flacco get into a rhythm. Seeing which back consistently gives Baltimore that success on the ground will be something to eye.
4. Blocking Jadeveon Clowney is tough. Doing it with banged-up offensive tackles is less than ideal. The Ravens will face that reality tonight. Starting tackles Austin Howard (knee) and Ronnie Stanley (concussion) both missed practice time this week. Clowney, meanwhile, has never played better than in recent weeks. The former No. 1 overall pick has a sack in four straight games, with two against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 11. It’s always fun to watch the freaky athlete get after quarterbacks. How will the Ravens try to slow him down?