Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Matchup with Texans will be telling for Ravens

OWINGS MILLS - Every team in the NFL has talent.
Every team presents challenges.
But, not to take anything away from the Ravens' win last week, the Cleveland Browns aren't the same caliber of team as the Houston Texans, and today's game against the Texans will provide a much better gauge of how good Baltimore really is.
"We consider them a very good team," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We've played them a lot over the years, and they've become a rival from the standpoint that they're in the hunt every year and the games end up meaning so much, so this is a very meaningful early-season game for us."
Houston has made the playoffs the last two years, and it's considered to once again be one of the top teams in the AFC.
Both of their games have close been the first two weeks, but the Texans are 2-0 heading into today's game versus Baltimore.
"They're good," Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith said. "The Texans are a very good, physical team - especially on defense."
The defense has given up 52 points in Houston's first two games, but the point totals are deceiving.
The Texans have the third-best pass defense so far and are allowing just 3.8 yards per carry to opposing ball carriers.
Former Baltimore safety Ed Reed is yet to play for Houston as he continues to work back from offseason hip surgery, and it's unclear if Reed will play today, but the Texans have plenty of talent on defense even without Reed.
Defensive lineman J.J. Watt was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year last season. Defensive end Antonio Smith was a Pro Bowler two years ago. Brian Cushing is considered one of the league's top inside linebackers. 2012 first-round pick Whitney Mercilus is an up-and-coming young pass rusher. Johnathan Joseph is a two-time Pro Bowler at cornerback. And Daniel Manning has been a productive safety in the NFL for several years.
"They cause a lot of problems for everybody, and not just those [Watt and Cushing]," Harbaugh said.
Baltimore, meanwhile, has had problems on offense. The offense scored two touchdowns during the second half of the win against the Browns, but has struggled for large portions of the first two games and will likely be without running back Ray Rice.
Rice has a strained hip flexor and is listed as doubtful for the game.
"They've got a lot of guys that can not only get after the quarterback but can play the run real well," Ravens fullback Vonta Leach said. "We're going to have our hands full."
Baltimore's defense will be tested as well.
The Ravens held the Browns to just six points, and Harbaugh said this week that he's excited about where the defense is at, but Cleveland is far from the same level of offense as Houston.
The Texans have been one of the better offenses for several years, and they still have most of the same players that have made them so good for so long and now also have a talented rookie wide receiver in DeAndre Hopkins.
Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown won't play because of a sprained toe, but Houston will still have Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Hopkins and the rest of its offensive line.
"It's a great challenge for our defense to see where we're at," Ravens defensive lineman Art Jones said. "We're excited for the matchup."