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Late for Work: What Pundits Expect in Ravens-Texans Opener


Baltimore Is Unanimous Pick to Win Season Opener

The pundits aren't overthinking Sunday's season opener between the Ravens and Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium.

All 55 pundits we looked at picked the Ravens, and all but two have them winning by double digits.

It's easy to understand why Baltimore is such an overwhelming favorite.

The Ravens have a revamped offense and one of the best rosters in the league. They've won six of their past seven season openers, with an average margin of victory of 27.7 points. Moreover, they've feasted on rookie quarterbacks under Head Coach John Harbaugh.

The Texans are coming off a 3-13-1 season, and first-round quarterback C.J. Stroud, the No. 2-overall pick, will be making his NFL debut.

"This is just a mismatch, plain and simple," Fansided’s Cody Williams wrote. "While we aren't entirely sure what the Ravens offense is going to look like with new OC Todd Monken calling the plays, the talent gap is evident just on paper. Plus, putting rookie C.J. Stroud on the road against an experienced Ravens defense for his first NFL start doesn't exactly sound like a recipe for success to me."

Table inside Article
Source Prediction Commentary
ESPN 10 of 10 panelists pick Ravens
Baltimore Sun 4 of 4 panelists pick Ravens “We’ll finally see how Todd Monken’s offense functions with Lamar Jackson at the helm and the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman and Mark Andrews catching passes. There will be hiccups, but not enough to keep the Ravens from handling an opponent led by C.J. Stroud, a rookie, and DeMeco Ryans, a first-year coach.”— Childs Walker
USA Today 7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens 5 of 5 panelists pick Ravens “After Lamar Jackson signed his long-awaited megadeal this offseason, the time has finally come to see what the electric playmaker looks like in new coordinator Todd Monken's offense. Lamar is surrounded by the best receiving corps he's had in Baltimore and remains at the center of the Ravens' rushing attack. Could there be a bigger challenge for DeMeco Ryans' new defense right out of the gate? On the flip side, Houston trots out a rookie quarterback in C.J. Stroud and a slew of offensive players making their debuts with the team -- including Robert Woods, Noah Brown, Dalton Schultz, John Metchie III and Tank Dell. This could get ugly early.” — Brooke Cerosimocerning that the Ravens were able to run the ball well at times last week even with so many starters out. The Ravens will try to slow down the pace and limit possessions because they know they are an inferior team, assuming Tyler Huntley starts at quarterback. If Anthony Brown is in, take four more points away from the Ravens. The familiarity of the two sides is an equalizer and would be on upset watch if Lamar Jackson was right, but there’s not much reason to believe that will be the case.” — Gregg Rosenthal
NFL Network 10 of 10 panelists pick Ravens
Sporting News Ravens 30, Texans 17 “C.J. Stroud has had mixed results over his two games in the preseason. This is an extremely tough defensive draw in his first NFL start as the Ravens' secondary is nasty, even without Marlon Humphrey. He also will need to worry about their active linebackers, led by Patrick Queen and Roquan Smith, in the compressed passing game. Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson will roll out to a hot start in the Ravens' revved up new offense under Todd Monken.” — Vinnie Iyer
CBS Sports 8 of 8 panelists pick Ravens “Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud will be making his first NFL start on the road against solid defense in the Ravens. The Ravens will be unveiling their new-look offense under new coordinator Todd Monken, an offense that will allow Lamar Jackson to do more in the passing game. Look for Jackson to have a big first day as Stroud struggles.” — Pete Prisco
Pro Football Talk 2 of 2 panelists pick Ravens “[The Ravens] are not the team you want to start out against if you’re a rookie quarterback. … Baltimore, to me, is one of the best teams in the AFC.” — Chris Simms
Sports Illustrated 7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens
Fansided Ravens 30, Texans 13 “This is just a mismatch, plain and simple. While we aren't entirely sure what the Ravens offense is going to look like with new OC Todd Monken calling the plays, the talent gap is evident just on paper. Plus, putting rookie C.J. Stroud on the road against an experienced Ravens defense for his first NFL start doesn't exactly sound like a recipe for success to me.” — Cody Williams

All that said, Harbaugh knows better than to take any opponent lightly.

"We know C.J. Stroud is extremely talented," Harbaugh said this week. "I watched him play a lot, and [I] have the utmost respect for him, his ability, for their offense, for the system they run [and] for the players they have. They have great skill players. They have a great run game; a downhill run game. They had that last year, too, in terms of running the zone scheme, [having a] fullback on the field. All of those things that we're going to have to be ready for, but we're just going to have to do what we do [and] try to do our best [that] we can and let the chips fall."

Here's what the pundits are saying about the game:

Lamar Jackson will have a big game in a Ravens' victory.

Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton: "He'll show why he's worth every cent of his new five-year, $260 million deal. The dynamic signal-caller will break off a few big runs against the Texans defense and connect with Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers a few times to break open the game in the second half."

CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco: "The Ravens will be unveiling their new-look offense under new coordinator Todd Monken, an offense that will allow Lamar Jackson to do more in the passing game. Look for Jackson to have a big first day."

USA Today’s Jordan Mendoza: "Lamar Jackson got paid, he's got weapons, and it will be fun watching the offense light up the Houston defense."

Look for the Ravens to pull away in the second half after an uneven start.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Only one or two Ravens starters Sunday will have played in the preseason. Jackson, Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman haven't played in seemingly forever. I could see Baltimore getting off to a bit of a slow start before taking control in the second half and winning by 10 or so."

The Ravens' new offense might need some time to hit its stride, and the Texans defense will present a challenge.

The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia: "I can't wait to see what this Ravens offense will look like with new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken and actual NFL wide receivers for Lamar Jackson to throw to. My general expectation is that it will work … eventually. But I think it could be a bit of a roller coaster in the first half of the season. The changes we're talking about here are dramatic. I would not be surprised if the Texans defense showed up in this game and gave the Ravens problems. Houston was competent defensively last year, and I'm a big believer in new Head Coach DeMeco Ryans, who was a stellar defensive play caller in San Francisco."

 Bold prediction: Expect the Texans' secondary to get their hands on the ball and intercept Jackson several times.

ESPN’s DJ Bien-Aime: "Houston invested in the unit this offseason at the draft and through free agency, and new coach DeMeco Ryans, the former Niners defensive coordinator, is calling plays. And the Texans are facing the Ravens' new Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken, who is known to operate a pass-heavy offense."

Bold prediction: The Ravens will sack Stroud five times.

Ebony Bird’s Parker Hurley: "Mike Macdonald is entering year two as the Ravens defensive coordinator and has a certain familiarity with C.J. Stroud. He beat Stroud in 2021 when he was the Michigan defensive coordinator. So, while most rookies come into the NFL with an unknown, Macdonald has a full report built up. Macdonald now has the schematic advantage, and he has the personnel advantage. We could see him mix up blitzes in unique ways to get to Stroud."

Ravens Players Name Teammates Poised for Breakout Season

Plenty of pundits have picked their breakout candidates for this season, but The Baltimore Banner went to the Ravens players themselves and asked them to name an under-the-radar teammate they think is poised for a breakout year. Here are some excerpts:

WR Tylan Wallace: "I feel like with the receiver room that we have, everybody's getting talked about here and there, but I feel like it's 'Bate' [Rashod Bateman]. I feel like he hasn't had a full healthy year to show everybody what he could do. I'm really excited for Bate this year; I'm excited for our whole receiver room. I feel like everybody has a lot they can prove, but I think for sure Bate. I'm really excited for him, I'm hoping for him to get out there and be healthy and show everybody what he's truly capable of."

RB Gus Edwards: "Hmmm. ... I think [running back] Justice Hill is going to be a big part of our offense this year. I think he's going to step up, big time. The offense is fitting for him. Pass-game wise, I feel like he's going to be very effective. ... Defense? [Defensive lineman] Broderick Washington. I feel like he's going to have a big year, too. With how strong, how physical he is, he's going to get more snaps this year."

DL Brent Urban: "Under the radar is tough. I think I'm really excited to see a guy like [defensive lineman Justin] Madubuike play this year. I don't know if he's really under the radar, as he's going to be, like, our big interior pass rusher for us this year. But as far as a guy who's going to take a big step, I think Madubuike, man. He's been just killing it as far as pass rushing, winning every one-on-one. His explosiveness, bend and power is a great combination, and I'm just excited to see what he does."

ILB Malik Harrison: "Set up for a big season? Oh, [running back] J.K. [Dobbins]. Definitely. Last year, he was hurt. Most of them runs would've been touchdowns if he's fully healthy, and I believe in my guy, especially being an Ohio State [alumnus]. He's 100% healthy, so I can't wait for him to just break out and have that dominant year and get paid. He's going to be good. I expect him to do big things this year."

Jason McCourty Predicts Ravens-Cowboys Super Bowl

It was noted in yesterday’s Late for Work that "Good Morning Football's" Jason McCourty picked Jackson to win the league MVP award this season. McCourty subsequently revealed that the Ravens are his pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. McCourty predicted the Ravens' opponent in the big game will be the Dallas Cowboys. 

Here's how McCourty envisions the Ravens' season playing out:

"Lamar Jackson, you have had one hell of a year. You've won the MVP and you have led your team. Odell Beckham, you were back and you were better than ever. Zay Flowers, you've been the Offensive Rookie of the Year and you have helped lead the charge. J.K. Dobbins, you've led your team to the Super Bowl and you're going to be paid for it."

You have to love McCourty's enthusiasm about the Ravens. Too bad he ruined it all by picking the Cowboys to win.

Monken Receives High Praise From His Former Quarterbacks

The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer spoke to several quarterbacks who played for Monken to get their impressions of the Ravens offensive coordinator. Here are some excerpts:

Ryan Fitzpatrick (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2017-2018): "One of the biggest things with me, and I think this is something that he took from his days in the 'Air Raid' offense, was just playing with an absence of fear. And that's how he calls games, too, is [with] an absence of fear. He's going to attack a defense. He's going to go after them."

Allan Bridgford (Southern Mississippi, 2013): "He really did a nice job of teaching and communicating. He's just kind of the guy you want in your corner."

Walter Church (Eastern Michigan 1997-1997): "Coach Monken is so smart. He's all about the players, putting the players in the best position. ... It's not like, 'This is what I'm going to do, and you have to fit into it as a player.' He's adaptable and great at teaching what he's trying to accomplish on the field."

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