The Baltimore Ravens will battle the Houston Texans on October 21 in a rematch playoff rematch. The two teams sit atop the AFC with identical 5-1 records. The winner will be left with the best record in the conference and the early pole position for home field advantage through the playoffs.
Baltimore will be without defensive starters LB Ray Lewis and CB Lardarius Webb, both of whom were lost to injury in a Week 6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The loss of Lewis leaves Baltimore without its emotional leader. Lewis' absence should mean more snaps for linebackers Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe. The usually stingy Ravens defense has struggled against the run this season with Dallas and Kansas City both topping the 200 yard rushing mark in consecutive weeks. The Texans' dynamic pair of running backs, Arian Foster and Ben Tate, are no doubt licking their chops at the prospect of attacking the Ravens' undermanned run defense. Baltimore went 4-0 in 2011 when Lewis was sidelined due to injury.
Houston will seek redemption for its loss at Baltimore in the divisional round of the 2011 playoffs. QB Matt Schaub, who missed that playoff loss due to injury, is back at full strength this season. Schaub and All Pro WR Andre Johnson figure to pick on Baltimore's pair of inexperienced corners early and often. CB Jimmy Smith, the Ravens' first round pick in 2011, has struggled to this point in his career. Smith will need to grow up quickly on Sunday.
The Ravens enter the game with one of the NFL's top ten offenses. The free agent addition of former Texans WR Jacoby Jones has given the Baltimore offense an added deep threat and reliable punt returner. QB Joe Flacco continues to emerge as one of the league's best. While Flacco has been superb at home this season he struggled in the second half of the Ravens' Week 2 loss to the Eagles and was inconsistent in a Week 5 win over the Chiefs.
The injuries to Lewis and Webb sent panic through the Ravens' fan base this week. The specter of pass rushing extraordinaire J.J. Watt and the 5-1 Texans hasn't eased many nerves in Charm City. Houston will be looking to rebound from last week's home blowout loss to the Packers, as well as avenge last season's playoff loss to the Ravens. The Ravens will need to get their no-huddle offense on track in a hostile environment in order to keep up with the versatile Texans.
*Information gathered from http://www.nfl.com
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