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John J. Raspanti
The Ravens travel to Houston to challenge the humbled Texans in a battle of first place teams. The Ravens will be without the heart and soul of their defense, inside linebacker Ray Lewis, who completely tore his right triceps muscle in Sunday's win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Lewis is out for the season.
The 37-year-old future Hall of famer has struggled at times this season. He's leading the team in tackles (57) but had been being blocked on a routine basis by offensive linemen getting to the second level. However, Lewis is the emotional leader of the Raven defense. Also out for the season is cornerback Ladarious Webb who tore the ACL of his left knee.
Coach John Harbaugh discussed the impact of the injuries yesterday.
"There are guys who put so much effort, heart and soul into what they do," said Harbaugh. "Lardarius was distraught; I could see it when he when I walked on the field in his face.
"Ray, in the locker room afterward didn't know (the extent of the injury), but was worried about it."
Baltimore's offense (ranked 8th) will need to put more points on the scoreboard. They did well against the Cowboys (31 points), but for the first time in years, won't have a dominating defense. The Ravens did get some good news. Linebacker Terrell Suggs was removed from the physically unable to perform list this week, placing him on the 53-man roster, the team announced Tuesday.
Quarterback Joe Flacco (eight touchdowns) has completed 62 percent of his passes. Running back Ray Rice has gained 482 yards and scored five touchdowns. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin has caught 25 passes. Second-year-man Torrey Smith is averaging 18.8 yards per catch. Tight end Dennis Pita is having another good season.
The Texans fully expected to handle the up and down Green Bay Packers. Instead, they found themselves on the wrong side of 42-24 shellacking. Houston coach Gary Kubiak said the loss was a team effort.
"Some undisciplined things that we did, that's our biggest concern today," he said. "But I think across the board all three phases wasn't good enough. Today we've got a lot of corrections to make and lots of soul searching to do, especially with this team we've got coming in here this week. It wasn't one thing. It was a bunch of things."
Texas quarterback Matt Schaub has connected on 63 percent of his passes. Running back Arian Foster has gained 561 yards through six games. Foster has crossed the goal line seven times. Own Daniels leads all Texan receivers with 26 catches. Andre Johnson and James Casey are nice targets for Schaub.
Baltimore has won four in a row. The Texans lost their first game of the season against Green Bay.
This one is a very difficult game to handicap. The Texans come in with the 2nd best yards per point number in the league offensively with a 12.6. Baltimore's offensive number is 14.3, not bad. Defensively, the Ravens are where you would expect, #3 in the NFL with a very nice 20.1. The Texans however, drop to a mediocre 15.6 offensively after last weeks game which places them in the middle of the pack.
If you look at the Texans schedule, you'll see that the two best offenses they played, the Broncos and Packers, had no trouble putting points on the board. The teams Houston has been able to keep in check have been the Jets, Titans, Jags and Dolphins. That's enough evidence to question just how good the Texans really are.
The Ravens are also a shell of their former selves. Giving up 29 to Dallas at home and 30 to New England is very un-Raven-like. Like the Texans, they have been able to keep the bad teams in check. But you have to be concerned with the loss of Lewis, both on the field and with the leadership role he brings to the table.
This isn't a game we'll be playing in the real world. We'd expect a big effort from the Texans this week in an attempt to bounce back from what can only be described as an embarrassing defeat on the national stage. But the numbers suggest this one might be closer than the spot. Ravens +7
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