Get the (JJ) Swatter Ready!

JJ Watt v Ravens

The last time the Ravens played the Texans, it wasn’t pretty.

In Week 7 of last season, the Texans hung 43 points on the Ravens in what was their first-ever win against Baltimore. Houston had the ball on offense for over 38 minutes, they rushed for an average of 4.9 yards per carry and they didn’t turn the ball over.

The Ravens, on the other hand, had probably their worst game of the year. They lost the game, 43-13. Baltimore’s defense gave up the most points they would give up all year and Baltimore’s offense scored the least points they would score all year (playoffs included).

It was certainly a wake-up call for the Ravens, as they went on to win their next four games (three of which were on the road) and of course, Super Bowl XLVII.

Like Baltimore, Houston also had a Week 8 bye followed by a nice winning streak. Houston would win their next five games, but after that they lost three of their final four games which ended up costing them valuable playoff positioning. For the second straight year, the Texans were eliminated from the playoffs in the second round.

So here we are.

Both teams are very talented and feel they have a lot to prove. On Sunday Ray Lewis gets inducted into the Ravens Ring of Honor. It’s also the first day Ed Reed will ever oppose the Ravens—that is, if he’s healthy.

Let’s turn our attention to this year, this game and the players who will be playing in it. Here are my three keys to the game for each team.

THE TEXANS WIN IF…

1) Watt gets his hands in passing lanes

J.J. Watt defensed 16 passes last year, which is an extremely high number for a defensive lineman. He plays multiple positions and can beat offensive lineman in multiple ways. Watt will also play the run very well, and did I mention he was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2012?

He’s certainly beatable, as anyone is. One way to neutralize Watt’s defense is to knock his hands down at the line of scrimmage. Of course it’s easier said than done, but if Baltimore can accomplish this task, Joe Flacco will be able to do his job much more easily.

2) Cushing runs free

After only playing in five games a season ago, Brian Cushing has gotten off to a strong start in 2013. In two games this year Cushing has recorded 1.5 sacks.

He doesn’t always blitz, but like fellow USC Trojan Clay Matthews, Cushing knows how to get to the passer and bring him down hard. Flacco has been sacked six times this season, which isn’t horrible, but it’s not good. If the Ravens aren’t careful or focus too much on Watt, Cushing will make them pay.

3) Their offense wins the time of possession battle

In the last two games of this series, the Texans have outrushed the Ravens by 170 yards. When the defense is on the field so often (and a defense that’s still coming together at that), it’s a big advantage for the offense. It makes the defense defend a lot of plays which causes them to accumulate fatigue which in turn makes them susceptible to big plays.

Houston has a talented, balanced and potent offense. There’s no doubt about that. There’s also no doubt that if Baltimore doesn’t get Houston’s offense off the field after third downs, it’s not going to bode well for their chances to win.

THE RAVENS WIN IF…

1) They get Watt’s hands down

It might be overstating it a bit when saying how important it is to give Flacco clear throwing lanes. Then again, when was the last time you saw a tipped pass and thought, “This is going to work out well for the offense?”

Sure Watt isn’t the only talented player on the Texans defense, but he is the best player on their defense. Also, the fact that the Ravens are not on the same page offensively right now makes it more important to keep Watt at bay.

2) They contain Foster

Arian Foster is one of the best dual-threat running backs in the NFL. Whether he’s running, receiving or opening up the defenses to the play action pass, he’s the No. 1 threat to opposing defenses every week.

The Ravens need to set the edge against Foster and the Texans and stay in their lanes, particularly against Houston’s stretch zone scheme (in which Foster has made a living of cutting back and causing defenders to over-pursue).

3) They limit Houston’s play action success

As previously mentioned (whether it’s deep over routes, crossing routes or double moves), Houston has a premier play action offense. There’s so much going on during those plays that if executed correctly, they can make defenses look silly. Though Houston’s play action game starts with Foster and their offensive line, it ends with (who I believe is) the best wide receiver in football: Andre Johnson.

The Ravens don’t have to shut down the Texans’ play action offense, but they should be able to slow it down. They have the athletes and veterans to do so. It’ll depend on their focus and communication.

PREDICTION: Texans 27, Ravens 26

 

The last time these teams met at M&T…

YouTube Preview Image
This entry was posted in Blog View, Featured by Mike Fast. Bookmark the permalink.

About Mike Fast

Mike Fast
I was born and raised in Baltimore. But after a year at York College of Pennsylvania, I transferred to Towson University. At York and Towson, I hosted various radio shows, wrote for the school paper, spoke on a panel RE: college game day presentation at IBS conference in Manhattan and...more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

 

Hot off the street

MEDIA WATCHDOG: Blogger Seeks $400K

Hunter filling in admirably for Manfra on WBAL If you’ve been listening to the O’s on 1090 AM WBAL (or trying to through the static) you’ve probably noticed that veteran broadcaster Fred Manfra...read more

Ravens Reinstate Rolando

The Baltimore Ravens have reinstated inside linebacker Rolando McClain from the reserve/retired list, three days after McClain worked out for Ravens officials at team headquarters in Owings Mills. ...read more

Smith Will be a Raven Through 2015

Jimmy Smith is a cornerback in vogue in today’s NFL - tall (6-foot-2) and physical, able to match up with receivers of any size. There was never a doubt the Ravens would pick up his fifth-year co...read more

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Edwin Mulitalo

For this week's "Where Are They Now," I caught up with former Raven guard Edwin Mulitalo. Mulitalo was selected by the Ravens in the fourth round of the 1999 NFL draft, and played ten years for the...read more

The 2014 NFL Draft by Position: Interior Offensive Line

With the 2014 NFL draft just a few weeks away, the interior offensive line for the Baltimore Ravens has gone from a glaring question mark to one of the most solidified units on the roster. Assuming...read more

View More