Texans (1-10) at Ravens (3-8)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
RB Jamal Lewis: I don't buy into the rhythm theory, that after that magical 20-carry plateau, the yards pile up like new-fallen snow. Nope. What we witnessed Sunday was Lewis running harder than he has at any point this season. Maybe the suggestion of splitting carries lit a fire under him. Maybe he doesn't like to share. But we also saw Lewis run for 76 of his 113 yards after halftime against a super-relaxed Cincinnati defense. The good news - Houston's defense is always relaxed. We're talking 'Weekend at Bernie's' relaxed here. The Texans rank last in the NFL against the run (158.5 ypg), and no one has given up more scores on the ground (16). If the Ravens again appease Lewis with lots of carries - they won't have a choice of Chester Taylor's ankle doesn't shape up - Houston will cooperate by allowing lots of yards and at least one touchdown. Rating: 4 out of 5.
RB Chester Taylor: Terrible timing for Taylor, whose ankle/foot woes popped up right around the time when the team was promising to find him more carries. The hobbled Taylor could spend Sunday in street clothes, but keep a sharp eye on the injury report. If he plays, he's worth having in the lineup. Rating: 1 out of 5.
QB Kyle Boller: For about 20 minutes on Sunday, Boller looked like a legitimate NFL quarterback. Too bad he did ii against a defense that was sitting back and protecting a 34-point lead. To say that Boller's performance was encouraging discounts 40 minutes of some of the worst football this side of, well, Houston, a comedy of incompletions, interceptions and stumbles. Seriously, it's a three-step drop, not three steps, stop, drop and roll. Rating: 1 out of 5.
WR Derrick Mason: Mason caught his first touchdown since Week 2 at Cincy, but he also had just three catches, about half his season average. He needs more passes thrown in his direction. Still, against a banged up Houston pass defense, a few grabs could go a long way. Rating: 3 out of 5.
TE Todd Heap: Thanks to a couple of second-half jump balls, Heap had his best game of 2005 a week ago with six catches for a season-best 87 yards and two scores. Sounds like he and Boller are on the same page again. With Santa Claus coming to town in the form of the Houston Texans, the timing couldn't be better. Rating: 4 out of 5.
PK Matt Stover: You'd think that in giving up a league-worst 38 touchdowns, the Texans wouldn't cede many three-pointers. And you'd be wrong. Houston has also given up 20 field goals, among the most in the league, which helps explain why the Texans rank 31st in scoring defense (29.5 ppg). Stover adds at least a couple of kicks to his total this weekend. Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ravens defense: Now here's a matchup the Ravens surely can handle, a Texans attack that ranks near the bottom of the league in total offense (237.6 ypg) and scoring (15.3 ppg) and right at the top in sacks allowed (50). Can you say 'field day?' Go ahead - try it. It's not that hard.
The Ravens' aim will be to take away running back Domanick Davis, who accounts for almost half of the Texans total offense at 105.8 yards per game. Davis was slowed by a knee injury last month and hasn't had the type of year many experts (including this one) projected, but he has reached the end zone in four of his past five games. He's likely to get there again against a Ravens defense that sorely misses Ray Lewis in the middle.
Injuries have also taken a toll on the Ravens secondary, where Ed Reed and Will Demps are out, Chris McAlister is limping and Deion Sanders and Dale Carter are old. It's been an awful year for Texans wideout Andre Johnson, but this sets up as a great matchup on the heels of his 12-159-1 performance in Week 12. The touchdown was his first of the season. Rating: 4 out of 5.
Texans: DOUBTFUL: S Jason Simmons (hamstring). QUESTIONABLE: CB Demarcus Faggins (hamstring). PROBABLE: RB Domanick Davis (knee); DE Gary Walker (knee).
Ravens: OUT: S Will Demps (knee); RB Justin Green (wrist); RB Musa Smith (lower leg). QUESTIONABLE: T Orlando Brown (back); LB Ray Lewis (thigh); CB Chris McAlister (thigh); S Ed Reed (ankle); RB Chester Taylor (foot); G Keydrick Vincent (thigh). PROBABLE: TE Todd Heap (foot); PR B.J. Sams (lower leg).