Roundtable: Talking Ravens
Patrick D. Starr
There is always time to brainstorm so Mike and Pat decided to talk some football earlier today and some thoughts about the upcoming game between the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans.
Mike and Pat cover all kinds of issues with the Texans performance in week 6, potential issues in the divisional playoff matchup and the thought of Wade Phillips leaving.
Have time to kill? Enjoy the read.
Pat: Feeling better about the Texans chances against the Ravens on Sunday after writing your article?
Mike: I wouldn't necessarily ever say I was feeling negative about it. Anything can happen in the playoffs, especially when Joe Flacco is your quarterback.
Pat: The more I think about it the Texans were in a transition spot in week 6. 2nd game without Andre, previous week lost Mario and Casey. Vickers and Reed both started their first game as Texan, all of this shuffling and the Texans still had a chance to win.
Mike: Sure, it was definitely a different defense back then. Do you really think Johnathan Joseph will get beat deep twice by Joe Flacco again? Not likely. But also the national media can't get enough of that 29-14 score that wasn't very telling of how the game actually went. Didn't the Texans go for it on 4th down twice on their side of the field and didn't get it? It was a much closer game than the score indicated.
Also, does anyone believe that Arian Foster is going to have that bad of a game again? Baltimore is excellent against the run but Arian dropped passes and missed lanes, too. Vickers being acclimated and James Casey healthy again should help as well.
Pat: Speaking of 4th and 1 Foster was face asked by Ravens Terrance Cody and it was not called in the 1st quarter. Kubiak also missed a chance to challenge a catch by Torrey Smith that hit the ground to set up the first score.
Mike: I remember. There were so many breaks that didn't go the Texans way and that's the kind of stuff that happens as a visitor at a tough ballpark like the one the Ravens play in. They aren't 15-1 their last two seasons at home by mistake.
Pat: Which one will end first? Texans 0-5 vs the Ravens all time or Ravens 0-5 in the playoffs at home? I like the fact the Texans have a chance in that sense, it shows the Ravens have struggled at home during the playoffs.
Mike: Really? I thought the Ravens won a wildcard game there back when they made their Super Bowl run. Regardless, that Ravens stat is kind of pointless in the fact that this is their first playoff game at home since 2006. Whereas a lot of the same players remain on the team for the Texans that have never beaten the Ravens. But I agree that something has to give. I find it similar to when the Eagles lost three straight NFC Championship games a few years back before finally breaking through.
Pat: You think the age thing has caught up with Lewis and Reed? It is pretty clear Reed has said he has played hurt all year.
Mike: Reed's age was apparent to me when Jacoby freakin' Jones beat him on that long pass in week 6. But he still has to be respected. Same with Ray Lewis. Is it a travesty that he made the pro bowl over a guy like Brian Cushing who is better at this point in their respective careers? Of course.
Like I wrote in my last piece, the myth of Baltimore having an unstoppable defense are just that now; a myth. But they're still very, very good. But horribly inconsistent. I really believe that Houston has the next "Baltimore defense."
Pat: I agree with the Houston being the next great D. They are, I'm my opinion, 2 players away from being really elite. The Ravens win with their smarts and solid technique play. Ed Reed despite being injured is still a top safety, but is very vulnerable in coverage. The Ravens defense is young at the corner position and that is where the Texans can take advantage of them. I really think both of these teams are closer in ability wise than what the untrained eye realize.
Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs scare me more than anything right now about Sunday.
Mike: If Haloti didn't scare you, well then you might be the most fearless guy I've ever known. If I'm starting a team from scratch and the entire NFL roster is available, I'm taking Ngata #1 overall to anchor my defense. Chris Myers and Mike Brisiel are going to have a tough day at the office on Sunday, undoubtedly.
Pat: I think Texans will be able to run the ball against the Ravens. The Texans have proved they can run the ball against any defense this season. I may be wrong but the week layoff might help the Texans or am I dreaming?
Mike: The Texans have been able to run the ball on anyone...not names the Baltimore Ravens. The more I think about it, maybe it wasn't a case of Arian Foster having a bad game as much as it was Baltimore scheming him well. Surely, the coaching staff will see some things on the film that they can get fixed this time. It isn't impossible to run on the Ravens as they gave up 100 plus in half their games this year, including the final three in a row.
Pat: You think the off week helps the Texans more or the Ravens?
Mike: The Ravens. I'm always going to opt for that bye to get guys that are nicked up healthy.
Pat: I'll be honest the Texans playing on Wild Card weekend helped them tremendously. Especially with a team that has never been in the position before it will help the nerves for this weekend.
Mike: Sure, but I'm always going to take the rest. Think of how many guys got more banged up in that game (i.e. Owen Daniels). Meanwhile, the Ravens are rested and ready to go. It really goes both ways, but I'll always choose the team coming off of a bye.
Pat: I think there was a question out there when Troy Nolan comes back healthy who are the Texans going to deactivate, I really have no idea. Shiloh Keo has been exceptional on special teams and Quintin Demps has been solid in the secondary. You think another lineman deactivated?
Mike: I'm not so sure, but if I had to guess it would be either Braman or Dobbins getting hit with street clothes.
Mike: If Ray Rice and Arian Foster cancel each other out, do you think Ben Tate could be that X Factor that puts them over the top? He played better than Arian in week 6, just didn't get the carries.
Pat: If he holds onto the ball heck yes. Tate has been off the past few weeks, don't you think? Still think Foster is the bell cow, but the X factor has to be Andre. How much the Ravens respect him will be huge, it could mean big things for the Texans offensively. I know you don't call your star the X factor, but not there in the first contest changes everything. Who is your X factor?
Mike: On offense I think it's Tate since the Texans like to run outside and wear down the Baltimore linebackers. Defensively it has to be Jason Allen and Kareem Jackson. We know neither of them are going to be good, but if they can just not be terrible and maybe shock us by making a play or two, then that could put us over the top.
Pat: You know how nervous I am with Jackson and Allen on Torrey Smith!
Mike: I'm wondering if they try to put Joseph on Smith because he has the speed to cover him that Allen and definitely Jackson lack. But one of them on Boldin is potentially even more terrifying. Is Lee Evans healthy?
Pat: Evans is supposed to play so that gives them three good receivers on the field at one time. Boldin is coming off of surgery for a meniscus? So that is going to have to be a factor. I'm not coaching but put Joseph on their best WR, Boldin and let Smith run his two routes, an out and a go.
Mike: Well, there is a reason that they're down there on the filed and I'm up here pretending I can write about it. I'm just trying to find a way to cover up the fact that Kareem Jackson is starting in a divisional playoff game.
Mike: You know what I hate? How blown out of proportion this Wade Phillips interview has been. Now fans already have a built-in excuse about how that was a distraction should Houston lose. Which I think is complete BS.
Pat: You know the good thing? Sounds like Marty Marty Schottenheimer is the man there, or signs are pointing to him being the next head coach. With Phillips coming in this season it seems like the Texans drafted 3-4 personnel with the success we have been having. Agree?
Mike: I still think Wade is back, but I also didn't think he would even get an interview after his surgery. So what do I know?
Pat: Same as me...nothing