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Know Your Foe: The Baltimore Ravens

BY PAUL GALLANT, SportsRadio 610
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(Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

(Credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

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The Texans will look for a second straight 3-0 start against the defending Super Bowl Champion Ravens Sunday. Here is everything you need to know about Baltimore:

Banged Up:

It has been a rough season for the Ravens thus far…as the following key players are all hurt:

- TE Dennis Pitta: Out – Hip Surgery
– WR Jacoby Jones: Out – Knee
– RB Ray Rice: Out – Strained Hip Flexor
– DE Chris Canty: Doubtful – Thigh
– LB Arthur Brown: Doubtful – Chest

And when you add that to the following players who moved on from Baltimore this offseason:

- LB Ray Lewis – Retired
– S Ed Reed – Signed with Texans (And is once again a game time decision…)
– WR Anquan Boldin – Traded to 49ers
– LB Paul Kruger – Signed with Browns
– LB Dannell Ellerbe – Signed with Dolphins

…You’ve got one of the worst defending Super Bowl champions of the modern era. The Texans are 2.5 point favorites on the road in this game. And based off of the above, and the last time these two met…they should be.

Hide Yo Kids…Hide Yo Wife

The Texans have really struggled to protect Matt Schaub thus far. Consider these pass protection ratings from Pro Football Focus:

- LT Duane Brown: -3.8,, Ranked 62 among all tackles (2012 All Pro, Pro Bowler)
– LG Wade Smith: -3.0, Ranked 53 among all guards (2012 Pro Bowler)
– RT Derek Newton: -1.1, Ranked 46 among all tackles
– RG Brandon Brooks: .5, Ranked 28 among all guards

Chris Myers has been great (2.6, 2nd among all centers), but the play around him has been completely unacceptable, especially to his left. To make things worse, Duane Brown will NOT play against Baltimore…meaning swing tackle Ryan Harris will vault into the starting lineup.

That ain’t good, especially with the pass rushing tandem of Terrell Suggs (2.3 pass rush rating, 8th among 3-4 OLBs) and Elvis Dumervil (4.3 pass rush rating, 5th among 3-4 OLBs) lining up across from Harris and Newton. With those kind of mismatches, you can bet they’ll be pinning their ears back to get after the passer.

Go Flacco Mode

So how do you beat that rush? Get rid of the ball quick, and have a lot of faith in your receivers like Flacco did with his patented “Moonball Prayer” offense.

But Paul, what is the “Moonball Prayer” system?

Easy. You have two options:
– Throw the ball as far as you possibly can and pray that Torrey Smith or Jacoby Jones catch it
– Lob the ball as high as you can, and pray that Anquan Boldin or Dennis Pitta out-physical smaller DBs

The Texans don’t have speed demons like Smith and Jones. But they do have two receivers who are stronger than just about every DB they’ll face: DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson.

Fun Fact: Did you know that from a receiving standpoint, Hopkins is the number one ranked WR in the NFL? Through two games he rates at 5.9, .5 points higher than the next guy (DeSean Jackson). And we all know how good Andre Johnson is (4.2, 6th).

Speaking of Burt From Sesame Street:

(Burt Flacco/Credit: TotalSteelers.com)

I still don’t buy Flacco as an elite QB. I think he’s above average because of that cannon arm he has. But with the supporting cast he has now? He’s below average.

Torrey Smith is a very good receiver. But that’s all he has. Ed Dickson is okay as a tight end. But when your throwing to 40,000 year old re-treads like Brandon Stokely and rookies like Marlon Brown, nothing is going to come easy.

With that in mind, Wade Phillips should blitz…and blitz often. Smith can hurt you…but he needs plenty of time to get open. Flacco won’t have the time to bomb it downfield.

Meanwhile…the Ravens running game was going to struggle…even if Ray Rice was healthy. It won’t be the fault of backup back Bernard Pierce either…who I think is very solid.

Why? Consider the following run block ratings for the Ravens O-Line:
– LT – Bryant McKinnie -3.8, Ranked 64 among all tackles
– RT – Michael Oher: -3.4, Ranked 61 among all tackles
– C – Gino Gradkowski: -1.5, Ranked 23 among all centers

How do you read those stats? Easy. Baltimore struggles to run the ball outside. I bet they’ll struggle up the middle too Sunday against the likes of J.J. Watt, Antonio Smith and Earl Mitchell.

Predictions:

This is a game the Texans should win. And with the Seahawks, 49ers, Rams, and Chiefs up next on the docket, it is a game the Texans must win. I think they get that W, taking Baltimore out 27-13.

Get in contact with Paul Gallant on Twitter – @PaulyGRadio – or on Facebook – Paul Gallant.

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