To win we must: Hold the ball for more than 20 minutes
It is no secret that the Ravens defense has been abysmal this season, but the offense hasn’t been a measure of consistency either. They are also facing a Texans team that leads in the league in average time of possession (34:54).
At times, they look like a dominant offense that can move down the field in bunches, especially with the newly installed sugar huddle. Ray Rice is still in the backfield, which is good. Bernard Pierce has been an excellent spell for Rice as he has shown great downhill running skills and explosion out of the hand-off.
However, there are also sequences during games, especially on the road, where the Ravens look as if they don’t have but a clue on offense. Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, they mustered one yard in the third quarter. Yes, one yard. They failed to score a touchdown against the laughing stock of the league in the Kansas City Chiefs. Other than a tremendous third quarter from Anquan Boldin, the offense didn’t exactly explode for a big night against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4.
Constant three-and-outs keep the defense on the field, period.
Sustaining drives will be key in taking steps forward as a team because the offense will gain confidence the more they keep the opposing defense on the field and the Ravens defense will be thankful, well-rested and be able to pick and choose their spots more carefully if the Ravens are playing with a lead and force the Texans into throwing the football. Also, keeping Arian Foster on the bench is a positive for any team. Look for Vonta Leach to factor into this game against his former team as the Ravens will need help in creating seams and alleyways for Rice and Pierce to run through against the seventh ranked defense against the run in the Houston Texans.
To win we must: Expose the secondary of the Texans
The Texans have given up the eighth-most passing touchdowns in the league with 12 scores, albeit six of them happened last Sunday against the Packers. The Ravens have the team speed to have similar success against this secondary with receivers like Torrey Smith and former Texans receiver Jacoby Jones. While starting corners Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph has decent speed, look for quarterback Joe Flacco to take a few chances down the sidelines similar to the way the Packers did so with wide receivers Jordy Nelson and James Jones as they torched the Texans secondary for five touchdowns combined. Joseph has been slowed this season by a groin injury and has practiced on a limited basis this week to give some time for his groin to heal. If he plays, expect the Ravens to exploit that match-up.
Anquan Boldin will also be key this week with his crisp route running and route spacing this week against the Texans. Safeties Danieal Manning and Glover Quin struggled handling Jones and Nelson, two of the better route runners in the game today, and nothing suggests that Boldin can’t have similar success. In his last three games, Boldin has had at least four receptions for 82 yards, with his best output in week four against the Browns; a nine catch 131-yard performance. Boldin will have to be the guy on third down to keep the drives alive for the Ravens as he has proven to be quarterback Joe Flacco’s most reliable target, snagging in a team-leading 28 receptions.
This will be the Ravens toughest test up to this point of the season. With the losses of Lardarius Webb and Ray Lewis, the defense will miss their presence. However, this is yet another opportunity for the Ravens to play inspired as they have all year for Torrey Smith’s deceased brother and the late Art Modell. Look for the Ravens to struggle against the Texans stopping the run once again as Arian Foster will probably have a fair amount of success against this woeful defense.
The Ravens have the ability to stretch the field with this group of receivers and are looking to prove themselves on the road against a quality opponent. The Ravens have never fell in defeat to the Houston Texans and are 6-0 all-time, including playoffs, against the franchise. If the Texans wish to get over the hump, they will eventually have to get the monkey off their back that is the Ravens. That being said, even though the Texans will respond early after a dreadful performance last week, look for the Ravens air it out for a few big plays with receivers on the outside as Jonathan Joseph will struggle in stopping Jacoby Jones or Torrey Smith. Ravens win one for Ray.
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