Ravens @ Texans
Sunday – 10/21/2012
The Baltimore Ravens travel to the city of Houston to battle the Texans in a match-up of the top two teams in the AFC this Sunday at 1:00pm. The Ravens and Texans both stand alone atop the AFC standings with 5-1 records. Baltimore is coming off a 31-29 victory over the Cowboys last week while the Texans are coming off their first loss of the season at the hands of the Packers. If you’re only going to watch one game this weekend, I would tune in to this one.
Saying Baltimore is going to be short-handed this weekend due to injuries is a major understatement. We are really going to see what the Ravens are made of the rest of the season due to the fact that defensive leader Ray Lewis and top coverage corner Lardarius Webb are lost for the remainder of the season. Also, Baltimore’s most dominant defensive lineman, and arguably the NFL’s most dominant defensive lineman, Haloti Ngata is going to be slowed with a knee sprain, but is expected to play. In addition to those three injuries, Ed Reed commented this week that he has a torn labrum in his shoulder but he also plans to play. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Jimmy Smith will take the place of the injured Lewis and Webb the rest of the season. The Ravens defense could receive one bit of good news in the way of the reigning defensive player of the year. Terrell Suggs has started practicing this week and there is a chance we could see his season debut this week against the Texans. Now don’t expect to see Suggs in defensive player of the year form that we saw last year, but he could provide a huge emotional boost to this struggling defense that has dropped to 28th in overall defense.
Houston is coming off their lone loss of the season last week and will be looking to rebound and show that they are legit AFC title contenders. The Texans have been playing exceptionally well on both sides of the ball ranking 10th in total offense and 6th in total defense. This should be the best battle of week 7 in the NFL.
Let’s take a look at what both teams need to do to win this contest.
What the Ravens need to do to win the game
The Ravens defense is going to have their hands full this week. Even if they were at full health this would have been a tough game, but with key players injured it is just going to be that much tougher. Baltimore enters week 7 after giving up over 200 yards rushing in each of their past two games. That is bad news because come Sunday they are playing a Texans team who ranks 6th in the league in rushing yards per game. The Texans lead rusher Arian Foster is ranked 4th in the league in rushing and will be looking to punish this depleted Ravens defense. If Baltimore can keep this Houston rushing attack in check it will be right in this game. If they let up another 200 yard rushing effort, don’t look for them to be as lucky as they were last week to escape with a victory.
Baltimore is also going to need a great day in pass coverage as well. Houston could very well look to exploit their secondary with Webb out and Reed slowed by an injury. Look for the Ravens to try to disguise their pass coverage packages and throw a lot of zone coverage at the Texans. Their plan should be to stack the box with their front seven and hope they can confuse Houston QB Matt Schaub with their coverage looks into forcing some turnovers. I suspect the Ravens D to be very aggressive and the newcomers that are replacing Baltimore’s injured stars to try and make their mark on this game.
Baltimore’s offense is going to be heavily leaned on this week too. Since their defense is hurting, look for Coach Harbaugh to really try to control the clock to keep his potent offense on the field and his hurting defense on the sidelines. I suspect we could see a heavy dose of Ray Rice this week and if he gets rolling early, a victory would be that much easier to come by.
What the Texans need to do to win the game
Run. Run. Run. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Houston gives Arian Foster the ball 30 plus times this week. As mentioned before Baltimore has let up over 200 yards rushing the last two weeks, and Houston will be trying to make it three weeks in a row. Houston deploys an amazing zone blocking scheme in their running game and they will be feeding Foster the rock all day. If Foster gets to the 150 yards rushing mark and chalks up at least two touchdowns, Houston very well could make this a blowout. Look for Houston to try and wear out Baltimore’s D early so they can expose their secondary in the second half.
The Texans are also going to try and get Andre Johnson involved heavily in this game. With Baltimore’s best cover corner out, I would suspect Houston will be trying to exploit whoever Baltimore throws at Andre Johnson. If Andre Johnson has a big day to go along with a big day from Arian Foster, the Texans will be lighting up the scoreboard and may be standing alone atop the AFC standings.
This week the match-up to keep an eye on will be Andre Johnson versus whoever Baltimore has covering him. Andre Johnson has proved over the last several years that he can be one of the top receivers in the game and with Lardarius Webb out, Baltimore is going to have a tough time stopping him. Look for lots of double coverages with Ed Reed playing safety over the top to help prevent the home run play. If Johnson goes over the century mark in receiving yards and scores 2 touchdowns, I don’t see a way the Ravens win this one. If the Baltimore secondary keeps Johnson in check, they should have a good chance to win this heated contest.
I’m going to cheat a little this week and make two predictions. My first one is in the case that Terrell Suggs makes his season debut. If Suggs returns to the field this Sunday I expect it to provide a much needed emotional boost, enough of a boost that will lead the Ravens to a 28-24 victory.
If Suggs does not return I see the Ravens D struggling and letting Arian Foster and company have some Madden-esque numbers and roll to a 31-21 victory. This should be a wild ride Sunday folks, so buckle up and hope that T-Sizzle makes his return to field.