If you’re anything like me, you found yourself bored and seemingly devoid of purpose last Sunday. Such is the curse of the dreaded bye week. Obviously as fans we dislike the bye, but the players definitely love it. Considering that John Harbaugh gave the players the week off, the Ravens’ players undoubtedly enjoyed their bye week this season.
The key thing for the Ravens this week will be their focus. Think about all of the distractions that are present for this week’s game. The team had an off week for the bye, which was probably spent dicking around and goofing off, in the case of most of the young players. Mario Williams is out for the Texans, Derrick Mason, of all people, is in. Add all that on top of the fact that most pundits are agreeing that the Ravens are one of the best teams in football, and you have several factors that could make the team complacent and unfocused on Sunday.
“Arian, I Don’t Think We’re in Texas Anymore.”
Coming into Baltimore is never an easy task, and it’ll be even harder for the Texans to deal with a crowd that was extremely bored last Sunday without football. While this Houston team isn’t really considered a rival, the fans always have a nice level of animosity for the opponenent, and that animosity will be fueled by Derrick Mason’s presence on the opposite sideline.
It will be important for the Ravens to come out of the locker room extremely focused (see, that key word again) and prepared, so they can take advantage of a wild crowd early, and be able to play with the lead. The defense has been insane thus far at home, and it would be crazy to say that the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium had nothing to do with that success.
Arian the Barbarian
I’m reluctant to do so, because I’m one of those people who really believes in flukes, but Arian Foster is a great running back. If he’s not able to get going, Matt Schaub goes from looking like a Pro Bowl quarterback to looking like a poor man’s Joe Flacco. Without the play action pass, and the threat of a big run from Foster, the Texans’ offense is predictable and one-dimensional.
The Ravens’ defense hasn’t really had any trouble against good running backs this season. Rashard Mendenhall put up only 45 yards on 12 carries, Chris Johnson only averaged 2.2 yards per carry in Week 2, and Steven Jackson was virtually nonexistent for the Rams in Week 3. It must be said that Jackson was playing hurt, but shutting down those three guys is a massive achievement, nonetheless. If the defense can continue that impressive streak against Foster on Sunday, the Texans will have a tough time getting much going offensively.
Whose Line Is It, Anyway?
The Ravens look to have the advantage in the trenches, both offensively and defensively. For obvious reasons (i.e. Haloti Ngata), the Ravens hve done a great job up to this point in the season getting penetration on the defensive line, and making quarterbacks very uncomfortable. The one game where that didn’t happen was the loss in Nashville to the Titans. Notice the correlation?
Now that Mario Williams has been ruled OUT for Sunday, the offensive line can breathe a bit easier. Bryant McKinnie, a fairly slow guy, would have had his hands full with the former #1 overall pick out of N.C. State. It’s still imperative that the offensive line gets a good push throughout the game, to help Flacco’s receivers get deep. With Torrey Smith becoming a bigger part of the offense (even with Lee Evans’ return), Joey Unibrow will need some time to let the deep routes develop, and pick on an average-at-best Houston secondary.
I do think that focus will be a big key to this game. Ray Lewis can yell and shout as much as he wants, but in the end, it’s each player who determines their own particular focus level. At this point, you’d hope every guy buys into the “Play Like a Raven” philosophy, which emphasizes focus and concentration in situations just like these.
I don’t see the Ravens dropping a home game all season, so my prediction is obvious for this one…the Ravens are focused in all three phases of the game, and win a hard-fought contest, 27-17.
Edgar Walker is a staff writer at Baltimore Sports Report, and a high school sports reporter for Essex-Middle River Patch. He joins The Purple Chaos each Wednesday. Follow Edgar on Twitter, if that’s your thing.