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Texans and Ravens Set for Monday Night Showdown

The (5-7) Houston Texans will host the (8-4) Baltimore Ravens on this week’s Monday Night Football, in what seems to be anothermust-win for the Texans.  Like the rest of the teams in the AFC South, the Texans need to win the division for their only shot at the playoffs.    While the Texans have moved passed the Titans in the the division, the Colts and Jaguars still linger ahead as the Texans face difficult match up after difficult match up.  The Baltimore Ravens come into Houston salivating for a win, much like the Eagles did last week against the Texans, disappointed from their primetime loss the week before.   And while the Ravens defense isn’t the same as it was with Rex Ryan, it still has a powerful front seven that should make for a long day for Arian Foster.  The Texans will have to game plan on Ravens’ defensive tackle Hagoli Ngata and middle linebacker captain Ray Lewis to stuff the Texans’ run attack.  Expect head coach Gary Kubiak to have his pass game ready to take on the Ravens’ susceptible eleventh ranked secondary.

The Baltimore Ravens have yet to spark their current 16th ranked rush offense (only 1301 yards total rushing yards and 3.6 yards per carry average) that ranked fifth in 2009 with 4.7 yard per game average.  The little tank known as Ray Rice is trying to avoid what happened to Steve Slaton and what didn’t happen to Maurice Jones-Drew.  Small backs with speed and vision must prove their not set third down backs, and Ray Rice knows he’ll face a tough task against Houston’s seventh ranked rush defensive front.

The Ravens’ pass game remains a threat for the Texans, especially since 2008’s 48-13 beat down.  Hurricane Ike delayed the Ravens-Texans September game to November in Week 10 as the rookie quarterback, Joe Flacco, finished with 15 for 23 with 185 yards and two touchdowns.  Flacco has definitely progressed since his rookie year, and the Ravens have updated his weapons since the day Yamon Figurs led the team in receiving.   Now Todd Heap, who may be out Monday, and Derrick Mason are joined by perrenial Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin.  Such a pass game faces the threat when the Ravens continue to pound the ball with Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Ron McClain, who is expected back this week.  The Texans defense face a daunting task to stop this offense.  Expect smart zones, zone blitz and Mario attacking on the outside. The opportunity will be there for the team to catch fire and keep momentum, but it will all come down to the offense picking up the defense’s slack.

The Houston Texans’ 2010 offense has been founded on ground game paved by strong efforts from coach Kubiak, the Texans offensive line and the Pro Bowl-hopeful running back Arian Foster.  The offensive line have done an incredible job this year opening up lanes for Foster to break open highways.  However, they have yet to face a defensive talent like Hagoli Ngata that can single handedly pack an offensive line his way.   Look for him to limit what the Texans can do on the ground, and the Texans to look to set up plenty of outside tosses and pass plays with Foster.  Schaub will have to be getting the ball out quick though, linebackers Ray Lewis and blitz-master Terrell Suggs pose a 60-minute threat to the Texans pass protection.  Suggs has nine sacks and 55 tackles on the season.  Lewis has 108 tackles and two sacks. The Texans will have to game plan bringing Andre Johnson between the linebackers and past the safeties in hard hitting Dawan Landry and highlight reel Ed Reed.

It will be up to Kubiak and Schaub to put together a high scoring effort against the Ravens secondary.  There will be only 60 minutes to work with a game plan against John Harbaugh’s Ravens, who so easily grind out the clock on offense.  Expect the Texans to get to work quick, attempt to avoid the Ravens’ defensive playmakers and try to gain that Reliant Stadium momentum for another win to keep them hunting for the AFC South Division Title.

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