After demolishing the Cleveland Browns in Week 1, the Baltimore Ravens set their sights on the Houston Texans in Week 2.
The Ravens look to keep their regular season win streak alive, while the Texans hope to bounce back from their defeat against the Kansas City Chiefs. On September 20th, the two teams will meet in Houston at NRG Stadium to battle it out for the second time in as many years.
In this article, we’re diving into some of the key areas to watch for the Ravens in order to head home 2-0.
Last week, Lamar Jackson carved the Browns secondary to the tune of 275 yards and three touchdowns, going 20-for-25. This week, he’ll look to do the same against a Texans secondary that allowed Patrick Mahomes to put up similar numbers. If he’s not doing it in the air, he’s churning it out on the ground, and against this suspect Texans’ run defense, you can bet he’ll take advantage of his lethal speed and agility.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown saw his fair share of targets last week, to the tune of five receptions for 105 yards. However, he was held without a catch in the second half, halting his production at halftime. The Texans secondary should allow Hollywood to get open again this weekend and allow him to grab more balls, and possibly, his first of many touchdowns of the season, overwhelming a Texans’ secondary that is less than formidable.
Mark Andrews started off red-hot! It doesn’t get much better than five catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns. The Texans’ linebacking corps will be much more of a threat this week, but Andrews is more than meets the eye; after leaving his wide receiver days behind in college, he stepped back into the role more than a few times last week, as he lined up in the slot and outside. The big-bodied tight end will be a handful for defenders wherever he lines up, as he’s proven time-and-time again, but it’s hard to imagine the same amount of touchdown production every week. That said, Andrews should get plenty of looks and catches this weekend to help with the win.
J. K. Dobbins didn’t have the rushing yards you’d expect from a two-touchdown performance, but that looks to change against a Texans defense that gave way to Chiefs fellow rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Add to the mix veterans Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards, and the Ravens’ rushing attack should shine as brightly as it did last season.
The glaring weakness for this Ravens offense comes from the offensive line. Losing Ronnie Stanley (ankle) last week wasn’t a dagger by any means, but it’s definitely something to watch. He participated in a limited capacity Thursday before upgrading to full participation on Friday, but remains questionable on the injury report. D. J. Fluker, who stepped in for the injured Stanley, looked outmatched against the Browns defensive line, giving up a sack on Lamar Jackson. Coach John Harbaugh described the ankle as, “not a serious injury,” but the tackle was held out of practice on Wednesday. The Texans’ defensive line didn’t amount to much last week, notching only one sack, but the Ravens’ offensive line must stay on-guard against star J. J. Watt and company.
In 2019, the Ravens’ defense held Deshaun Watson and the Texans’ offense to a measly 232 yards and seven points — and that was with All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins, who Houston traded to the Arizona Cardinals this past offseason. The Ravens have only improved their defense, so one has to wonder how the Texans are going to fare this week.
Calais Campbell has already proven to be a very nice addition to the defensive line. His size and length help him not only stuff the run, but in pass defense, as evident in his three pass deflections against Baker Mayfield last week. Deshaun Watson is only an inch taller than Mayfield, so the passing angles will be similar, and Campbell could replicate that same performance.
The Ravens’ secondary picked up right where it left off last year with a pick on the very first drive of their season (aided by one of those pass deflections by Campbell). The Texans’ receivers, now without the aforementioned Hopkins, can be sneakily-good, as Will Fuller had 112 yards against the Chiefs. However, I think the Ravens’ cornerbacks will make this look like a walk in the park. If they cover as well as they did last week against Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr., Watson will have fits all afternoon.
The Baltimore pass rush was non-existent last week, but the Browns’ offensive line was a key focus during their offseason. The Texans’ offensive line, however, is full of holes and crumbled often against the Chiefs. Matt Judon and company should be able to get the ball rolling here, although they do need to keep an eye on Watson’s ability to escape and make plays with his legs.
The only bright spot of the Texans last week was their running back David Johnson, who they acquired from Arizona in the DeAndre Hopkins trade. He gashed the Chiefs defense to the tune of 77 yards on 11 carries, along with three catches for 32 yards. Unfortunately for the Ravens, their run defense was quite the eyesore last week. If they can’t contain Johnson early and go through the air, the Texans could put up quite a bit of damage.
Justin Tucker reminds us once again that he’s a commodity. Browns kicker Austin Seibert missed 100% of his kicks last week, while Tucker nailed 100% of his. Missed kicks all over the league only stress the importance of a reliable kicker; Tucker will play a vital role this (and every) week for the Ravens.
An unsung hero, punter Sam Koch doesn’t need to do his job often with the potent Ravens offense, but when he does, he’s incredible. His three punts last week averaged over 41 yards, and two were downed inside the 20-yard line. Just like Tucker, when called upon, Koch is as reliable as they come.
The return game showed signs of life with rookies Devin Duvernay and James Proche returning kickoffs and punts, respectively. Duvernay had a 38-yard return that could’ve easily been taken for six after the Browns’ only score of the day. It’ll be exciting to see what he can do as he gains more experience. Proche performed decently on punts; however, there was one that the Browns downed on the one-yard line that I feel he could’ve played a little better. Even though Jackson and the offense scored on that 99-yard drive, experience will help Proche get better and help alleviate pressure on the offense.
The Texans will look to take advantage of the Ravens’ rush defense early, but I expect Baltimore to come out like a Little Caesar’s pizza: hot and ready. If the Ravens score as early and often as they have in recent past, the Texans will have no choice but to go to the air, where they will be overwhelmed by the Ravens’ outstanding secondary.
SCORE: 42-13 RAVENS
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(Featured Image Credit: Shawn Hubbard / BaltimoreRavens.com)