Sunday Match-Up: Houston @ Baltimore
The Ravens are all even at (1-1) and are tied with Cincinnati atop the AFC North fpr the lead. (Not that it should matter much.) Emotions will run high in Week Three as Baltimore welcomes back two of it’s most popular stars in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. The Ravens are also bothered by injuries with the most important being the concern over Ray Rice’s hip flexor.
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How will all of those storyliness play out this Sunday?
Let’s take a look at some of the key matchups in this game:
Texans Running Backs Arian Foster/Ben Tate vs. Ravens Inside Linebackers Daryl Smith/Josh Bynes
The cornerstone of the Texans offense remains it’s zone blocking scheme with a dynamic pair of backs in Foster and Tate. Foster deservedly gets the most notoriety but Tate has proven himself to be a more than competent backup as he actually leads the team in rushing yardage. (148 yds.) The ability of such a potent run game is huge for Houston because they love to use play-action to help move the ball.
The Ravens front seven must step up to the challenge of at least slowing the Texans running game. They did a much better job last week against Cleveland but facing a very solid offense line from Houston will be a different story. Daryl Smith had an excellent game leading the team with 11 Total tackles and 1.5 sacks while Bynes was also very effective in run support with 8 Total tackles of his own. If Baltimore hopes to avenge last season’s 43-13 drubbing from a year ago they will have to control the Houston backs.
Texans Defensive End J.J. Watt vs. Ravens Offensive Line
The current Defensive player of the year has a unique skillset has game-changing ability on the line. Last season “J.J. Swatt” became the first player in league history to register 15 sacks and 15 pass breakups. He can help his team in so many ways and he’ll need to be accounted for if the Ravens are to have success on offense.
Wyatt will lineup in various spots so it’s important to identify him pre-snap and make sure the proper protections are in order. That means the entire line must be prepared to take him out of the equation. It’s a tall order especially with so many other great player on the defense to account for.
Texans Andre Johnson vs. Ravens Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith / Lardarius Webb
Johnson is one of the league’s best receiving threats. There was an issue of weather or not he’d be healthy this Sunday due to a shot he took from Ex-Raven Bernard Pollard. However Johnson appears slated to practice today and will most likely line-up this week. If so then he is the number one target for Quarterback Matt Schaub. Johnson is a player that moves around in different places in the formation so Webb, the top corner may draw him as well as Smith on the outside. Both will need to be physical with such a strong target.
Texans Cornerback Jonathan Joseph vs. Ravens Wide Receiver Torrey Smith
No question that the Ravens receiving corps has has some issues catching the ball so far. One player who is not is Smith who has now become Flacco’s favorite target. Not just on deep routes either. According to Pro Football Focus Smith has received 21 looks from his QB and he’s responded with a team high 11 receptions for a team leading 177 yards.
Baltimore is no stranger to Joseph who is a former Bengal. In last year’s blowout he had an interception off a Watt tip and is considered one of the best corners around. Jim Caldwell will need continue to find creative ways to get Smith free to keep the Ravens offense from stalling.
Texans Safety Ed Reed vs. Ravens Quarterback Joe Flacco
After missing the first two games it seems very unlikely that Reed would be unavailable for his Baltimore homecoming. Head Coach Gary Kubiak said, “I think he’s as close to playing as he’s ever been”, referring to Reed’s status. If he does suit up it will be interesting to note if his snaps are limited and just how effective he’ll be on the field.
Flacco is known as a bomber with a big arm and few teams last season could match Baltimore’s ability to stretch the defense deep. So far this season those big plays have been few and far between. Will Flacco be able to test Reed’s savy and ability to read the offense? And more importantly should he?