The Ravens are heading into the game banged up on the defensive side of the ball but last week the Texans got beat up on the scoreboard for the first time of the year. With both teams coming back from a standing eight count, who will deliver the knock out blow and take control of the AFC?
Last week in their 31-29 slug-fest versus the Dallas Cowboys, the Ravens lost two key cogs in the their defense – possibly for the season – when future Hall-of Famer Ray Lewis tore his triceps muscle and their top cornerback Lardarius Webb tore his ACL. Now a unit that has already been less then stellar by their standards will have to deal without those two players.
Also during that game, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata sprain the MCL in his left knee and later during the week safety Ed Reed revealed that he has been playing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The only good news for the Baltimore defense is that the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Terrell Suggs will return this week following off-season surgery to repair his torn Achilles.
This season, the Ravens defense ranks 26th in both total offensive yards allowed per game (396.7 yards) and rushing yards allowed per game (136.5 yards), 22nd in passing yards allowed per game (260.2 yards) and 11th in points allowed per game (19.7 points).
The Texans will try to take advantage of Baltimore’s injuries after suffering their first loss of the season at the hand of the Green Bay Packers last week 42-24. Arian Foster should be licking his chops to get an opportunity to run all over a poor Ravens running defense sans Lewis.
This season, Foster has rushed for 561 yards (4th in NFL) and seven touchdowns (1st in NFL) on 149 carries and the Texans will need him to produce at a high level to bounce back and regain control of the AFC.
Matt Schaub must also play a better game than he has during the past couple of weeks if the Texans want to win this important October game against a team who not only has the same record as them, but also knocked them out of the playoffs a season ago.
Much of the pressure for the Ravens will rest on Joe Flacco‘s right arm and Ray Rice‘s legs. If these guys have a good game then the Ravens will have a much better chance at winning a tough road game.
Rice has carried the Ravens offense this season to a tune of 715 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns on just 121 touches while Flacco has passed for 1,690 yards (7th in NFL), eight touchdowns and completed 61.7% of his attempts.
The Texans defense will be looking to stop both Rice and Flacco in their tracks as they are the staples of this team. Houston’s D ranks sixth in yards allowed per game (300.8 yards), seventh in rushing yards allowed per game (87.7 yards) and eighth in both passing yards allowed per game (213.2 yards) and points allowed per game (19.2 points).
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is not only one of the main reasons for their success, but he might also be the baddest man on the planet right now. This season, Watt has 32 tackles, leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks, has seven tackles for a loss, eight pass deflections and two fumble recoveries.
When the game is all said and done, Texans will bounce back from last week and get a well deserved victory. But if the Ravens were healthy then it could have been a different story. I’ll take Houston 24-17.