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By Dave Thomas

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 15:  Running back Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens is introduced before the start of the Ravens and Cleveland Browns game at M&T Bank Stadium on September 15, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

(Credit, Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Even though the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens are not exactly the same team now that walked off the field last February in defeating San Francisco for all the marbles, they’re still a pretty good team.

Yes, some retirements, trades and free agency have presented the Ravens with a different cast of characters this season, but they still hold the gold until someone takes it away from them.

With that in mind, the Houston Texans get their first crack this season (possibly in the playoffs too) of knocking off the defending champs, as they travel to Baltimore for Sunday’s meeting with the Ravens.

The Texans head to Baltimore fresh-off their comeback win last Sunday at Reliant Stadium over AFC South rival Tennessee, a 30-24 overtime thriller.

In that victory, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins stepped up for injured star Andre Johnson (concussion) in catching a three-yard TD pass from quarterback Matt Schaub for the game-winner. While the Texans would like to avoid having to put on another comeback win this weekend (beat San Diego in the opener 31-28 after trailing 28-7), the Ravens will undoubtedly provide a stiff test for head coach Gary Kubiak’s squad.

Having Johnson Back Would Help Offense

Getting Johnson back would certainly be beneficial for the Texans, though the star receiver was limited in practice this week due to the concussion and lower back discomfort. If he can’t go on Sunday, look for Hopkins to get more looks.

Meantime, Houston (2-0) had a pair of players not participate in practice, left tackle Duane Brown (toe) and tight end Garrett Graham (hip/groin). Getting Graham back would also provide Schaub with another weapon to test Baltimore’s defense, which led Cleveland to six points a week ago, this after getting blown out in the season opener at Denver (49-27). On the offensive line, if Brown is a no-go for Sunday’s game, expect Ryan Harris to step in for him.

On the defensive side of the ball, many eyes will be on free safety Ed Reed. The former Ravens’ star has been missing in action the first two games of the 2013 season, this due to a hip injury. Reed was reported to have had limited practice sessions this week, according to the team.

Some minor injuries for the Texans do not appear to be severe enough to limit some of the star players, among them running back Arian Foster (calf/chest/thumb), linebacker Brian Cushing (knee), and running back Ben Tate (shoulder). Tate provides the Texans with a nice change up from Foster, giving opposing defenses another threat to worry about when he gets the ball.

After visiting Baltimore this weekend, the Texans return home Sept. 29 to meet the NFC West leading Seattle Seahawks, followed by a road date (Oct. 6) against the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers.

Houston Texans

Questionable

  • LT Duane Brown (DNP) Toe
  • TE Garrett Graham (Limited) Hip/Groin
  • FS Ed Reed (Limited) Hip

Probable

  • ILB Brian Cushing (Full) Knee
  • TE Owen Daniels (Full) Rest/Non-injury*
  • RB Arian Foster (Full) Calf/Chest/Thumb
  • WR Andre Johnson (Full) Concussion/Lower Back
  • CB Johnathan Joseph (Full) Rest/Non-injury*
  • ILB Joe Mays (Full) Quadricep
  • CB Brice McCain (Full) Knee
  • C Chris Myers (Full) Back
  • RT Derek Newton (Full) Knee/Calf/Elbow
  • WR DeVier Posey (Full) Achilles/Foot
  • ILB Darryl Sharpton (Full) Hip
  • LG Wade Smith (Limited) Knee
  • RB Ben Tate (Full) Shoulder

Baltimore Ravens

Out

  • C Ryan Jensen (DNP) Foot
  • WR Jacoby Jones Knee

Doubtful

  • LB Arthur Brown (DNP) Chest
  • DE Chris Canty (DNP) Thigh
  • RB Ray Rice (DNP) Hip
  • WR Deonte Thompson (DNP) Foot
  • DT Brandon Williams (Limited) Toe

Questionable

  • CB Chykie Brown (Limited) Knee

For more Houston Texans news and updates, visit Houston Texans Central.

Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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