Texans-Ravens: Just Why Exactly Is Houston Favored to Win?

Despite losing 28-21 to the Minnesota Vikings last week, and despite losing starting quarterback Matt Schaub for about four weeks, and despite losing leading tackler Zac Diles for the season, and despite playing the team with the NFL’s second-ranked defense, the Houston Texans are still favored to defeat the Baltimore Ravens this week.

I kid you not.

Now before I get to the Texans, let’s discuss the Baltimore Ravens for a bit.

The Baltimore Ravens are 5-3 on the season, and they currently sit in second place in the AFC North behind the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens do, indeed, have the NFL’s second-ranked defense, allowing only 246.4 yards a game. They have the league’s best run defense, allowing only 64.3 yards per game. This would indicate that maybe the Texans should consider passing the ball, but despite injuries to their secondary, the Ravens still have the NFL’s fourth best pass defense, allowing only 182.4 yards per game.

They allow only 2.8 yards per rush, and they have allowed only one rushing touchdown this season. This would further indicate that the Texans should pass the football, especially since the Texans have the NFL’s fifth-ranked passing offense, gaining 262.4 yards per game. There’s just one problem. Samari Rolle, one of the NFL’s best defensive backs, will be returning to action for the Ravens this week after missing the last six games due to injury.

Plus, the Ravens play the 3-4 defense, that same defense played by the Steelers and Dolphins – and we saw what those teams did to the Texans offense. But this week, the guy who will be making Duane Brown and Ephraim Salaam look bad will be outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has five of the Ravens 17 sacks.

The Texans should catch a break in that as good as they are defensively, the Ravens are kind of weak on the offensive end. The 19th ranked offense in the NFL, averaging only 322.5 yards per game, is led by rookie quarterback Joe Flacco. The bad news, however, is that the Ravens have the NFL’s fifth-ranked rushing offense, averaging 148.8 yards per game on the ground.

And we all know how the Texans do against running teams.

While the Texans have the NFL’s 14th ranked defense for total yards, they are the 23rd ranked defense against the run, allowing teams an average of 126.8 rushing yards per game on 4.5 yards per rush. The Texans have also allowed 17 rushing TDs.

This means the Texans will probably try what they did against the Steelers, Titans, Jaguars and Vikings. They’ll try to crowd the line so as to stuff the run. And we saw how the Vikings burned them on that last week. And we also know that the Texans don’t handle trick plays real well. This means that the rookie head coach of the Ravens, John Harbaugh, will probably burn the Texans on a couple of trick plays.

Here’s a note for Texans defensive coordinator Richard Smith: If back-up QB Troy Smith comes out and lines up in the backfield, then takes the handoff from Flacco, make sure you have someone covering Flacco.

As for the Texans, well, the best I can figure is that it looks like they’ve spent more time this week bitching to the NFL about Vikings defensive lineman Jared Allen than they’ve spent preparing for the game this week. And frankly, while it’s a bitch losing the starting quarterback, I really think Gary Kubiak should be more concerned about what’s coming up.

Sage Rosenfels can move the offense. He’s shown that against the Colts and the Vikings. He just keeps turning the ball over – then again, Matt Schaub also turns the ball over, and the offense seems to move better under Rosenfels. But Kubiak has shown that, from game to game, he’s unable to adjust to what’s happening in the game – I’m sure a timeout or two will be wasted while Kubiak tries to figure out what play to run. And maybe, just maybe, if he spent more time in the film room, he could figure out game adjustments.

I think the Texans lose again this weekend. I think they lose big. I say the defense gets burned on a trick play – and with the way the defense plays, I’d classify the fake-handoff-then-throw as a trick play. Ahman Green is supposedly healthy, so I say he’s injured after his first collision with Ray Lewis. I say Kubiak blows a replay challenge – he’s due. I say Rosenfels throws an interception.

I say Joe Flacco looks like the second coming of Peyton Manning.

I could be wrong. But I doubt it. -- John Royal

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