Tale Of The Tape: Houston Texans At Baltimore Ravens
- QuarterbackMatt Schaub is a very consistent regular-season quarterback, so the idea of going to play on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions is not going to intimidate him. Schaub keeps his cool under pressure, reads the defense quite well and he will throw the ball accurately. He has nearly the ideal demeanor for the position and head coach Gary Kubiak has full faith in him.Joe Flacco is clearly the most dependable asset on this team. He has to step up this year and become even better because the Ravens have serious deficiencies on defense. Flacco’s ability to throw the ball deep gives the Ravens the ability to come back from deficits of two touchdowns or more.
- OffenseThe Texans have the kind of balanced offense that make most teams envious. Arian Foster is probably the second-best back in the league when healthy. He is a powerful runner who can get outside and he can also catch the ball. Wide receiver Andre Johnson (concussion) may not be available. Tight end Owen Daniels will not drop the ball on third-down plays.The Ravens can attack downfield with Torrey Smith, who has the speed to get deep and the know-how to get open. Brandon Stokley has been an under-appreciated receiver throughout his career, but he just goes out and proves it every game. Ray Rice (hip flexor injury) may not be at his best. The Ravens' offensive line has been one of the team’s most dependable attributes.
- DefenseThis should be a big advantage for the Texans in this game. J.J. Watt is among the top three defensive players in the game and his ability to sack the quarterback and bat down passes could be a game changer. Linebacker Whitney Mercilus has the speed to make plays sideline to sideline. Safety Danieal Manning is one of the best safeties in the league.The Ravens are no longer identified by their defense. Instead, that unit has become a liability because they struggle in coverage and simply don’t put enough pressure on their opponents. Haloti Ngata is a force in the middle of the defensive line while Terrell Suggs can still get after the quarterback from his OLB position, but the Ravens lack the depth to be effective.
- Special TeamsThe Texans were simply abominable on special teams last year so they brought in punter Shane Lechler from the Raiders. He has been one of the league’s best for years. Rookie placekicker Randy Bullock has a strong leg but he is still somewhat unproven.The Ravens have the ability to steal a game on special teams if speedy Jacoby Jones (knee) is healthy, but he is not at this point. Sam Koch is a fine directional punter and placekicker Justin Tucker helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl last year after that position had been a liability in past years.
The Ravens have a slight edge at quarterback because Flacco has a Super Bowl ring, but the Texans’ edge on offense and ability to dominate on defense should give them the ability to hang in for 60 minutes and possibly steal the game from the Ravens. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor