Pre-snap read: Ravens-Texans

October 16, 2011|By Matt Vensel

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m rested and feeling good after the bye week. Ditto for the Ravens as they head into Sunday’s game against the 3-2 Houston Texans, though the Ravens aren’t as healthy as they would like. A few key Ravens have been ruled out for the game, but the injury bug bit the Texans harder. Houston will be without Mario Williams, its best defender, and Andre Johnson, one of the best receivers in the NFL.

The Ravens’ thrilling overtime win over the Texans a year ago was perhaps the team’s most exciting game of the season. If they play their game Sunday, this one should be a little easier on the central nervous system.

Here are five storylines to watch as the first-place Ravens host the first-place Texans at M&T Bank Stadium:

1. Not as healthy as they hoped: Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans and cornerback Jimmy Smith targeted this Sunday as a return date, but they have been ruled out for the game, as have cornerback Chris Carr and safety Tom Zbikowski. Starting left guard Ben Grubbs is questionable with a toe injury. The Ravens have good depth, which will be put to the test again against the Texans, but long-term health is understandably their top priority.

2. Joe Flacco’s accuracy issues: The fourth-year quarterback played lights-out in wins over the Steelers and Rams, and it looked as if he was throwing footballs in the dark in the loss to the Titans and the win over the Jets, as he had trouble finding open receivers. Flacco’s 49.3 completion percentage puts him near the bottom of the league, but it’s too soon to freak out, especially with the Ravens playing so well overall.

3. Derrick Mason is back -- again: The Ravens’ all-time leading receiver is back in Baltimore as a member of the Texans two weeks after he was back in Baltimore with the Jets. Whether it was because of a lack of production or a lack of restraint when it came to speaking his mind, Mason was traded to Houston, who needed a receiver with Johnson sidelined. We’ll see if Mason is chippy again as he gets a second crack at his former teammates.

4. Corralling Arian Foster: When these teams met last season, Foster piled up 100 yards on 20 carries and added four catches for 25 yards. Slowing down Foster and a Houston running game that is averaging more than 130 rushing yards this season will be Baltimore’s top priority this time around, especially with Johnson on the shelf. If the Ravens can do it, it will be a long evening for Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.

5. A pair of former Texans: The Ravens signed fullback Vonta Leach and strong safety Bernard Pollard in the offseason, and that hard-hitting duo gets a crack at its former team on Sunday. The Texans will try to get out of the way of Leach, the Ravens’ prized offseason addition, but they could go after Pollard, who will start in place of Zbikowski. Houston didn’t re-sign him after its secondary was victimized often in 2010.

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