One of the marks of a great team is the ability to find a way to win even when not playing at their best; the Texans showed that ability last Monday against the Jets. Another mark of a great team is the ability to put a bad loss behind them, move forward, and take care of their next opponent; we'll see how the Texans deal with that test this Sunday. The Texans have a chance to deal the beat up Ravens another blow and put some space between themselves and the other AFC contenders. The Ravens and Texans are the only two AFC teams with five wins; no other team even has four wins. If the Texans win on Sunday, that would put them up basically two games by being up one game in the standings and also owning the tiebreaker. This game on Sunday is more important than the Packers game last week. If they were to lose one of these tough games before the bye week, which I think we all thought they would if we were honest, then winning the game against Baltimore was more important with its potential effect on playoff tiebreakers and eventual seeding.
Here's what to watch for:
Run, Run, Run
Last week the Dallas Cowboys rushed for 227 yards on 5.4 yards per carry. The week before that the Kansas City Chiefs ran for 214 yards on 4.3 yards per carry; what happened to the Ravens run defense? Through six games this season the Ravens rank 26th in rushing yards allowed per game, 24th in rushing touchdowns allowed, and 19th in runs over 20 yards allowed. Haloti Ngata isn't getting the same push and penetration, Ray Lewis isn't getting off his blocks, and now they have injuries to deal with. The Texans haven't run the ball very well this season with the exception of the Jets game, but I think they'll have a big day on the ground on Sunday.
Which Flacco Shows Up?
The Ravens offense has been very different on the road vs. when playing at home. Take a look at the 2012 home/road splits of Joe Flacco as proof.
Home - 67.1% completions, 317.8 passing yards per game, 7 touchdowns/2 interceptions, 106.6 QB rating, 9 yards per pass attempt.
Road - 50.7% completions, 209.5 passing yards per game, 1 touchdown/2 interceptions, 62.4 QB rating, 6 yards per pass attempt
In 2011 his splits weren't as drastic but as a team the Ravens were only 4-4 on the road compared to a perfect 8-0 record at home. For whatever reason, Flacco and the Ravens aren't the same team outside of Baltimore. Part of their problem on the road has been pass protection. In their last road game, a 9-6 win over the Chiefs, the Ravens offensive line gave up four sacks. Overall this year the Ravens rank 23rd in sacks allowed. Any issues in pass protection will likely be exposed against a Texans defense that ranks seventh in sacks including 9.5 from NFL sack leader J.J. Watt.