TIME: Sunday, 1 p.m. EST.
The Baltimore Ravens are still alive in the playoff race, but it won’t be that way for long if they can’t minimize their miscues against the upset-minded Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium.
The Ravens are 1 1/2 games behind first-place Pittsburgh in the AFC North with three to play. They’ll play host to second-place Cleveland before visiting the Steelers in the season finale on Dec. 29.
But first, they will have to deal with the expansion Texans, who handed the Steelers a potentially damaging loss in Pittsburgh last weekend.
Baltimore had a chance to move within one-half game of the Steelers last Sunday, but suffered an ugly 37-25 home loss to New Orleans.
The Ravens surrendered a pair of blocked punts, three fumbles and two interceptions. Running back Jamal Lewis scored on a one-yard run and caught a 77-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jeff Blake, but he also lost two fumbles.
“Don’t fumble the ball. Don’t drop the pass,” Baltimore coach Brian Billick said. “That’s what you’re going to do if you’re going to be good in this league.
“Because of some of the things going on around the league, until we’re out of it, we’re not out of it.”
Linebacker Jamie Sharper and punt return-specialist Jermaine Lewis, both of whom played key roles on Baltimore’s Super Bowl championship team two seasons ago, will be facing their former teammates for the first time. Both players were taken by the Texans in the expansion draft after being left unprotected due to salary cap restraints.
Lewis, however, might not be able to play Sunday because of a sprained right shoulder suffered in the stunning 24-6 victory over the division-leading Steelers.
The Texans had the worst offensive performance ever by a winning team, managing just 47 yards, but scored three defensive touchdowns, including a pair on interception returns by cornerback Aaron Glenn.
The lone positive from the Texans’ dismal offensive showing was that they did not commit a single turnover. Houston, ranked last in the league in offense, has managed just one offensive touchdown in its last 12 quarters.
“It’s tough for me to look the defense in the eye and say we did anything on offense, and it’s not the first time,” Houston tight end Billy Miller said. “This is the worst one, but not the first time they played great but we didn’t have any productivity and lost the game.”
Houston needs to win its final three games to tie the Panthers’ 1995 finish of 7-9—the best ever by an expansion club—achieved under current Texans coach Dom Capers. With last Sunday’s victory, the Texans tied the 1995 Jacksonville Jaguars for the second-most wins by an expansion team.
STANDINGS: Ravens - 3rd place, AFC North. Texans - 4th place, AFC South.
RAVENS LEADERS: Offense - Blake, 1,377 passing yards, 8 passing TDs; Jamal Lewis, 1,092 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs; Todd Heap, 51 receptions, 5 receiving TDs; Travis Taylor, 672 receiving yards. Defense - Edgerton Hartwell, 80 tackles; Peter Boulware, 5 sacks; Ed Reed, 4 INTs.
TEXANS LEADERS: Offense - David Carr, 2,070 passing yards, 9 passing TDs, 3 rushing TDs; Jonathan Wells, 447 rushing yards; James Allen, 38 receptions; Corey Bradford, 608 receiving yards, 6 receiving TDs. Defense - Jay Foreman, 85 tackles; Jeff Posey, 8 sacks; Aaron Glenn, 5 INTs.
RAVENS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 112.5 yards per game (15th in NFL); Passing Offense - 167.8 ypg (31st); Total Offense - 280.3 ypg (29th). Rushing Defense - 110.4 ypg (14th); Passing Defense - 233.4 ypg (24th); Total Defense - 343.8 ypg (23rd).
TEXANS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 89 ypg (30th); Passing Offense - 134.5 ypg (32nd); Total Offense - 223.5 ypg (32nd). Rushing Defense - 125.5 ypg (22nd); Passing Defense - 198.9 ypg (11th); Total Defense - 324.5 ypg (14th).
LAST MEETING: First meeting.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Ravens - The 37 points allowed last weekend were the most against the Ravens since Billick became coach in 1999. … Baltimore finished 0-4 against the NFC this year. Texans - QB Carr has been sacked 68 times this season, five shy of establishing a new NFL record. Randall Cunningham was sacked 72 times as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1986.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Ravens - 2-4 on the road; Texans - 2-4 at home.
INJURIES: Ravens - DOUBTFUL: CB Tommy Knight (leg). QUESTIONABLE: QB Chris Redman (back). PROBABLE: C Mike Flynn (leg); CB Chris McAlister (shoulder); S Raymond Perryman (back). Texans - DOUBTFUL: WR Jermaine Lewis (ankle). QUESTIONABLE: T Ryan Young (knee). PROBABLE: WR Atnaf Harris (hip).