Another week, another key matchup arrives for the Baltimore Ravens. Football season is starting to wind down, and the playoff picture is coming into full view. At this moment, the Baltimore Ravens own the second seed in the American Football Conference, but that position is threatened by the visiting Texans. The Texans currently sit atop the AFC South with a 6-3 record. A win over Baltimore earns Houston a critical tiebreaker in the race for the second seed. If the Ravens want to improve to 8-2 and hold on to the second seed, Baltimore will need a victory over a stout Texans squad.
Here is what the Ravens must do to win:
Ravens Shifting Defensive Line Must Hold Strong Against Texans Ground Game
Like the Baltimore Ravens, the Houston Texans have found an offensive identity built upon the foundation of a strong run game. The Texans are the fourth-ranked offense, as the team gains an average of 396.7 yards per game. Houston is also the fourth-ranked rushing offense, with an average of 142.8 yards per game accumulated on the ground. Much of Houston’s rushing production comes from the elusive quarterback, Deshaun Watson, but the Texan’s chief contributor is running back, Carlos Hyde. Hyde has 704 yards on the ground this year and averages 4.7 yards per rush attempt. Facing Hyde and the Texans ground attack will be a challenge for the Ravens. Baltimore is likely to be without run-stuffer, Michael Pierce, and the Ravens will need to rely on newcomers like Domata Peko and Justin Ellis, assuming both are both active on Sunday.
Ravens Arial Assault Must Fly Over Fourth Worst Pass Defense in the League
The Baltimore Ravens are built to run the ball, and as an outsider looking in, one may believe that Baltimore can only run the ball. The Ravens demolished this narrative last week, as offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, dialed up a pass-heavy gameplan to exploit the Bengals’ defensive gameplan. Baltimore can and should do the same against the Houston Texans. Houston boasts the third-best rush defense in the National Football League, as the team only gives up 84.1 yards on the ground. However, the Texans rank as the fourth-worst pass defense in the league. Houston allows an average of 277.3 yards per game. Baltimore’s unique rushing scheme will not be stopped by the Texans defense, but the Ravens must exploit Houston’s bad secondary with Lamar Jackson’s strong arm.
Ravens Secondary Must Hold Strong Against a Plethora of Talent
It’s no secret that the Houston Texans have some very talented receivers. The group is led by DeAndre Hopkins, who is considered by most to be one of the best receivers in the National Football League. The Texans also have Will Fuller, the tight end, Darren Fells, and speedster Kenny Stills. The quarterback throwing to these talented receivers, Deshaun Watson, is currently one of the most accurate passers in the NFL. He boasts a 70.2% completion rate in 2019. This poses a unique challenge for the Ravens secondary. Baltimore must force Watson to throw into the tightest windows possible. If the Ravens give him any margin for error, he will tear up the secondary one pass at a time.
Update: Will Fuller was ruled out for Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 16, 2019
Jimmy Smith will likely be asked to cover Kenny Stills, the speed burner of the Texans offense. Jimmy Smith must prevent Stills from escaping his coverage deep, otherwise, Watson will continue to hit him all game long.
The Texans’ strong pass defense starts at the defensive line. Not only must Matt Skura be asked to block well throughout the game, but he also must make the correct blocking assignments for the entire offensive line. If the Texans’ defensive line dominates Baltimore’s offensive line, the Ravens’ north-south run game will sputter.
It is unlikely that Michael Pierce will play on Sunday, so the newcomer, Domata Peko, will be thrown into the fire immediately. Peko will be added to defensive line rotations, tasked with stopping Carlos Hyde. Peko’s debut as a Raven needs to be successful if the Ravens want to counter Houston’s strong rushing attack.
In a very close matchup, both teams will keep the crowd entertained with scores. However, the Baltimore Ravens will earn the victory on a last-minute touchdown engineered by the magical Lamar Jackson.