For perhaps the first time this season, the Baltimore Ravens are expected to lose a game, and perhaps some might even think they will begetting demolished when they go on the road to face the Houston Texans. Both teams are 5-1 and the only two teams in the AFC with a winning record. However, that might be where the similarities end.
The Texans were undefeated until they got slammed by the Green Bay Packers this past week at Reliant Stadium. The Ravens escaped the Dallas Cowboys and have now won their last four games by a combined total of 13 points. Add the inability to stop the run and the loss of two key defensive starters and you get the result of an expected blowout Sunday afternoon.
But wait just a second, folks, this is the NFL and as Dave Dameshek says in his blog, the N"if"L, stranger things can and have happened. Personally, I expect the unexpected this weekend at Reliant Stadium and I will explain why.
The Ravens recent victories may leave the typical fan unsettled, but these are games the team always seemed to find ways to come out on the losing end of in the past. Now, they are finding the ways to win, be it by the skin of their teeth. Winners find a way to win and while some people think it's just luck, I believe good teams make their own luck.
The one loss on Baltimore's record could have, and most people would agree, should have been one of those wins. While the Ravens have only blown out one opponent this season, they were not blown out in their lone loss. However, the same can't be said as true about the Texans, who not only were blown out, but in front of their own fans no less.
Earlier this season, one could argue that the schedule-makers must have loved Houston as their opponents, other than Green Bay, could only be described as average at best. Yeah, the Denver Broncos are beginning to look good now, but they weren't back then. Meanwhile the Ravens toughed out wins over the New England Patriots, who could easily be compared to the Packers.
It would be easy and perhaps even natural to see the combination of the Ravens run defense issues, their non-existent pass rush and their two major injuries and think there is no reason to expect to stop the Texans offense. Then you look at the issues the Ravens offensive line has had and then see Texans J.J. Watt, who leads the NFL in sacks and is the leading candidate to follow Terrell Suggs as the NFL defensive Player of the Year. Michael Oher has not look that good at left tackle so you have to wonder how Joe Flacco will have the time to throw.
All this adds up to a Ravens loss, perhaps by double digits, right? Sorry, but the NFL just does not work that way. Ask The Patriots, who lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals. Ask the New York Giants, who lost on opening night to the same Dallas Cowboys the Ravens just beat. Nope, this is the N"if"L and not only have those stranger things happened, I fully expect them to happen again.
Baltimore usually plays either up or down to their level of competition. Sunday's competition will have them playing up to the level of Houston. Ray Rice is by far the toughest multipurpose player they'll face this year. Torrey Smith is a threat. Anquan Boldin can take over a game and Dennis Pitta has as sure a pair of hands as anyone.
Houston will be a stiff test and a loss would not discourage most fans, but a win would prove that this team is good enough to find ways to win when it seems like they are not either playing their best, or a loss appears imminent. I see a similar game as was played in Philly, minus that many turnovers, but one coming down to the final possession. I'll take that and put my trust in both Flacco and ultimately, placekicker JustinTucker. Same close game as against the Eagles, except for one thing. Flacco does drive the team downfield and the kick is....good!
(NOTE: Keep an eye out for the "Predict The Score" contest to post your final score guess and win a cool prize!)