Scouting Report

December 04, 2005|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,SUN REPORTER

Ravens run offense vs. Texans run defense

Jamal Lewis ran for 113 yards last Sunday against the NFL's 25th-ranked run defense and now faces the league's worst one. The Texans are allowing 158.5 rushing yards per game, and no one else in the NFL is allowing more than 145. In 11 games against Houston, opponents have scored 16 rushing touchdowns and averaged 4.8 yards a carry. Lewis will take nearly all the carries considering Chester Taylor (foot) will be limited, Musa Smith (leg) is on injured reserve and Jamel White was signed in the middle of last week. Right guard Keydrick Vincent (thigh) is expected to start after missing two games, and right tackle Tony Pashos will replace Orlando Brown for a third straight week. Houston linebacker DaShon Polk, who has taken over for the injured Kailee Wong, is among the weak links.

Edge -- Ravens

Ravens pass offense vs. Texans pass defense

The biggest downfall for Kyle Boller has been his decision-making. He has thrown seven interceptions in 15 quarters this season. But Houston, which ranks 24th in pass defense, doesn't force teams into mistakes. The Texans' four interceptions are the second fewest in the NFL. Opposing quarterbacks have recorded an NFL-best 109.9 passer rating against Houston. The Ravens have to capitalize on the matchup with injured cornerback Demarcus Faggins (hamstring), who has replaced injured Phillip Buchanon and could line up against Derrick Mason. In his past three games, Boller has completed 57 percent of his throws but has averaged just 172 yards passing.

Edge -- Even

Texans run offense vs. Ravens run defense

Houston running back Domanick Davis has gained 78 and 57 yards since missing two games with a knee injury. Before that, he had averaged 89.7 yards in a four-game stretch. The Ravens have not held up against the run without linebacker Ray Lewis, who will miss his sixth straight game with a hamstring injury. In their past six games, the Ravens have allowed a 100-yard rusher three times. Without Lewis and safety Will Demps (knee), the Ravens are without two of their top three tacklers.

Edge -- Even

Texans pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

The Ravens failed to record a sack last Sunday, the first time they've been shut out since the season opener. But they should have plenty of chances against the Texans, who have given up an NFL-worst 50 sacks. The Ravens' top three sack leaders are all linebackers: Adalius Thomas (four), Tommy Polley (three) and Bart Scott (three). Pressure is important for the Ravens, whose secondary is beat up. Demps is out, cornerback Chris McAlister (thigh) is a game-time decision and safety Ed Reed (ankle) is expected to play. Texans quarterback David Carr ranks 34th in the NFL with a 58.3 passer rating in the fourth quarter.

Edge -- Ravens

Special teams

Because of injuries - six players did not practice last week for the Ravens - there could be some starters pressed into special teams duty. There is a concern that this switching around could lead to lapses on coverage teams or possibly a blocked kick. The Ravens have the NFL's second-best punt returner (B.J. Sams), but the Texans have the league's second-best punt coverage team. Houston rookie returner Jerome Mathis is dangerously quick, scoring two touchdowns on kickoffs this season. Houston's average starting position after kickoffs is the 31-yard line, which is No. 2 in the NFL. The Ravens' Matt Stover has converted 20 of his past 21 field-goal attempts; the Texans' Kris Brown has missed three of his past 11 tries.

Edge -- Even

Intangibles

Although they have nothing to play for, the Ravens understand a loss to the one-win Texans could lead to serious ramifications at the end of the season. Houston is coming off the most devastating loss in franchise history, surrendering a 10-point lead in the last 30 seconds of the game. The Texans haven't won a road game since Dec. 26 of last season, losing all five games away from home this year. In the past two seasons at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens have beaten six of the eight opponents with losing records, winning by an average margin of 14.6 points.

Edge -- Ravens

Prediction

Ravens coach Brian Billick can spin almost any situation, like saying his team grew from last Sunday's miserable loss in Cincinnati. But not even Billick could rationalize a loss to the lowly Texans to owner Steve Bisciotti. So the banged-up Ravens will play it safe: Give the ball to Jamal Lewis and call it a win.

Ravens -- 23-10

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