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Ravens-Texans: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Texans: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 20 December 2014 by Luke Jones

Sunday represents a homecoming for a number of players and coaches as the Ravens travel to Houston to take on the Texans.

From offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and assistants Rick Dennison and Brian Pariani to tight end Owen Daniels, running back Justin Forsett, and wide receiver Jacoby Jones, plenty of Ravens will be returning to a place they called home for a number of years, but there’s little time for sentimentality when you’re in the playoff race. At 9-5, Baltimore can clinch a playoff spot in Week 16 with a win and losses by both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh or a win over the Texans coupled with defeats by both San Diego and Kansas City.

On the surface, the Ravens should feel very confident as the Texans are turning to their fourth quarterback of the season — expected to be the newly-signed Case Keenum — but Houston still possesses the best defensive player on the planet in J.J. Watt and a powerful running game that ranks fourth in the NFL. The 7-7 Texans are a long shot to sneak into the playoffs at this point, but they’d like nothing more than to spoil Baltimore’s playoff chances on Sunday.

It’s time to go on the record as the Ravens and Texans meet for the seventh time in regular-season history with the Ravens holding a 6-1 edge, which doesn’t include their 20-13 win over Houston in the 2011 postseason. Baltimore is 3-1 against Houston at NRG Stadium.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens hope to clinch a playoff spot in Week 16 …

1. Baltimore will advance its streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher to 25 games, but Arian Foster will have a season-high total against the Ravens defense. No opposing running back has even gotten close to the century mark this season as Ahmad Bradshaw of Indianapolis has the highest total of the year against the Ravens with just 68 in Week 5. However, Foster will represent the greatest test the Ravens have seen since Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata was suspended for Adderall use. Both defenses will be familiar with the opposing rushing attack as the Ravens and Texans both use the zone stretch, but Houston will be a bit too predictable relying on the run due to the uncertainty at the quarterback position. Foster will rush for more yards against the Ravens than any back this season, but his total will remain south of 100 yards.

2. Daniels will catch a touchdown and have his best game of the season against his former team. The longtime Texans tight end having a strong day against his former team would be a feel-good story, but quarterback Joe Flacco went out of his way earlier in the week to say Daniels needs to be more involved in the offense. Against Jacksonville, Daniels was targeted nine times — the most he’s been thrown to since Week 9 — and caught four passes for 62 yards and his first touchdown since Week 7. The Ravens’ 17th-ranked red-zone attack remains a weakness of a strong offensive attack, but the reemergence of Daniels would be a major factor in a potential trip to the playoffs. His familiarity with the Texans’ defensive personnel will help him produce a season-high in yards, besting the 70 he had against the Colts in Week 5.

3. Watt will collect a sack and bat down a pass, but the Ravens will throw away from him and run plenty of counters to try to minimize his impact. The Texans defensive end might go down as the most disruptive defensive force the NFL has seen since Lawrence Taylor, but the Ravens can only focus on minimizing his impact as much as possible on Sunday. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will move Watt all over the defensive line, so the key is identifying where he lines up and running the play away from him. Flacco will throw to the opposite side of where Watt lines up to try to minimize his ability to use his 6-foot-5 frame to disrupt passing lanes, but running the counter is effective in slowing his motor as well as the rest of the Houston pass rush. Watt will see double-teams, chip blocks, and max protect as well, but play selection will be just as important.

4. Daryl Smith will pick up his second interception of the year to continue his strong finish to the season. A slow start and the emergence of rookie C.J. Mosley have led many to overlook how well the veteran linebacker has played in the second half of the season. An effective blitzer and still the Ravens’ best linebacker in pass coverage, Smith could be a key factor in trying to confuse Keenum, who proved to be an aggressive passer who couldn’t handle a pass rush in eight games for the Texans last season. It’s obvious the Baltimore defense will try to pressure the young quarterback, but Smith could prove key by showing blitz up the middle before dropping into pass coverage. The secondary will have its hands full with wide receivers Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins — if the latter plays — but Smith will come away with a pick with Keenum facing a heavy rush.

5. Baltimore’s advantage at the quarterback position will be the ultimate difference in a tight 23-16 win for the Ravens. Last week’s struggles against the Jaguars should remind everyone that nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, and the Texans remained competitive in Indianapolis last week despite veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick going down with a broken leg. Bill O’Brien’s team has talent on both sides of the ball, but it’s very difficult imagining John Harbaugh and the Ravens losing to a fourth-string quarterback under these critical circumstances. Flacco will need to stand tall against a formidable pass rush, but he’s played very well since the bye week, a trend that will continue against a mediocre secondary. It will be a tight game in Houston, but the Ravens will get some revenge for Kubiak and find a way to move to 10-5 on the season.

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A Dirty Dozen for the Defense

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A Dirty Dozen for the Defense

Posted on 02 August 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

Earlier in the week I posed the question, “Are the Ravens set up for success on offense?” While the answer is absolutely subjective, I’d venture to say that the real answer is that they better be. In hindsight we can see that whatever shortcomings we perceived in the Ravens offense in 2011 have to be viewed through the filter of the gamut of high caliber pass defenses that they had to deal with along the way. This year it appears that the shoe may be on the other foot, or more aptly, on the other side of the ball as the Ravens look to have to deal with a lot of scary offensive propositions in 2012. If there ever were a good time to have to deal with the defection and absence of defensive talent that the Ravens have recently undergone, 2012 certainly doesn’t appear to be it.

Here’s a look at the 12 scariest players that the Ravens defense will have to contend with in 2012:

 

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

 

Quarterbacks: Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, Carson Palmer, Robert Griffin III, Andy Dalton

 

Running Backs: Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Lesean McCoy, Ryan Matthews, DeMarco Murray, Willis McGahee

 

Pass Catchers: Jermaine Gresham, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Aaron Hernandez, Dwayne Bowe, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Wes Welker, Antonio Gates, Malcolm Floyd

 

 

#12 – Peyton Manning (DEN) – There are no offensive stats to base this on from last season and Manning’s health is still a huge question, but the reputed Ravens killer is a scary proposition until he proves that he isn’t. There are some serious questions about how easily he’ll find his way in a new offense and on a new team, but make no mistake, if Manning is healthy and surrounded by 10 warm bodies he’ll likely be tough to deal with for the Ravens as usual.

 

 

#11 – Darren McFadden (OAK) – It’ll be week 10 before the Ravens cross paths with McFadden, and history suggests that there’s a decent chance McFadden could be hurt and/or on the shelf by that time. That might be the Ravens best hope at containing him. When healthy McFadden is a scary combination of speed and muscle. He’s explosive inside the tackles and outside and at his best McFadden has a skill set that’s eerily similar to Maurice Jones-Drew who had a field day against the Ravens last season.

 

 

#10 – Philip Rivers (SD) – Whether you agree that Rivers is worthy of being regarded as a top 5 to 7 quarterback in the league or not, it’s hard to argue that last year was a disappointing one for both he and the Chargers. Still, in the midst of all that struggle, Rivers and crew had their way against the Ravens in San Diego last season. Traveling coast to coast is never easy in the NFL, and neither is facing Rivers and co. in the final weeks of the season. All of that could make for a scary storm of circumstances for the Ravens as they travel west to San Diego in week 12.

 

 

#9 – Trent Richardson (CLE) – The profile and value of the NFL running back in general has taken a substantial hit in recent seasons, evidenced perhaps no better than in the love (or lack thereof) that ball carriers have gotten on draft day. When it comes to Richardson however there was no hesitation from NFL execs in casting him near the tops of their draft boards. Of course as a rookie there’ll be no shortage of question marks and growing pains for the young, prospective bell cow, but in having to see him twice the Trent Richardson fear factor goes up exponentially.

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