Coming off of a devastating Primetime loss to Green Bay, the Houston Texans will host Baltimore on Sunday afternoon. While it was the Texans’ defense that failed to show up in Sunday Night Football, the Ravens defense should be the talk of the locker room this week in Houston. Baltimore will be without two huge playmaker defenders, LB Ray Lewis and CB Lardarius Webb who are both out with season-ending injuries. There is chatter that Ravens LB Terrell Suggs will make his season debut against the Texans despite suffering a torn Achilles in April. Suggs’ first practiced with the Ravens on Wednesday.
This could mean two things for the Texans. Either Suggs will actually play and the Texans will need be prepared for that, or he won’t and this is a brilliant PR scheme aimed at getting the Texans to readjust in the middle of the week. Sure, Suggs was the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year with 14 sacks. But that guy won’t be on the field Sunday. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said on Wednesday that the Ravens “should temper [their] expectations” about Suggs’ capabilities. The Ravens would be taking too many chances to unleash Suggs at 100% on Sunday coming off of only three full days of practice.
Regardless of the Suggs talk, the Texans’ offense has more than enough opportunities to erase last week’s failures from the books. Ray Lewis’ rush defense performance was less than average in the first six weeks of the season. With the hole at LB, the Ravens activated LB Josh Bynes from the practice squad. Bynes is a virtual NFL rookie from Auburn and has huge shoes to fill. Other than Bynes, the Ravens have Ellerbe and McClain at inside linebacker. Considering that Lewis had 57 tackles in 6 games and Ellerbe and McClain have only 30 and 29 tackles respectively, they may be prone to leaving huge gaps up the middle for the Texans. With this inexperience and ineffectiveness at LB, look for RBs Arian Foster and Ben Tate to turn up the heat on the rush. The Texans would be smart to establish a quick pace at the beginning of the game and employ a no-huddle offense to keep the Ravens guessing.
With Webb out at corner, Sunday could be TE Owen Daniels’ day. Webb is Mr. Coverage, and without him, the Ravens’ secondary looks less scary. Combine the lack of LB power and the weakened secondary and the Ravens’ defense is vulnerable to both the rush and pass offense. If RB Foster has a great day, forget about it. If TE Daniels so much as catches a ball, it’s Cancel Christmas – the Texans should win this game.
Even with the holes in defense, the Texans cannot bet that that alone will slow down the Ravens. The Ravens have snuck into a 5 – 1 record with a subpar defense by relying on the powerful no-huddle offense. The Ravens’ offense could still pull out a win if the laughable Texans defense that showed up against the Packers shows up against QB Joe Flacco and Company. Interestingly, this means that Sunday’s outcome could be directly attributable to how well the Texans’ defense does. It’s almost a given that the Texans’ offense will put up points. What is less telling is how many points the Texans’ defense will allow.