Texans-Ravens Preview

The Baltimore Ravens are feeling confident and well-rested after

their week off, with several injured players hoping they’ll be back

on the field this weekend.

Meanwhile, with Mario Williams lost for the season and Matt

Schaub also hurting, the Houston Texans are probably wishing they

were entering their bye week.

The Ravens will try to stay unbeaten against the visiting Texans

on Sunday as they go for their third straight win overall.

Baltimore (3-1) entered its bye week following a 34-17 win over

the New York Jets on Oct. 2. In another impressive defensive

display, the Ravens limited New York to 150 yards of total offense

and forced four turnovers.

Baltimore is holding opponents to an NFL-low 14.3 points per

game, and ranks third in total yards allowed per game (284.5) and

second against the rush (72.5).

“We can be special, but it all depends on where we go from

here,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “We can’t take any steps back

because that’s not how championship teams are built. Not in this

league. You’ve got to make the momentum snowball.”

Although the defense isn’t expected to get first-round draft

pick Jimmy Smith back this week from a high ankle sprain, the

injury news is better on offense with guard Ben Grubbs (right toe)

and receiver Lee Evans (left ankle) hoping to go.

Both Grubbs and Evans were being cautious this week, though,

saying they were day-to-day. Evans, in his first season with the

Ravens after seven with Buffalo, is off to a slow start. He caught

two passes for 45 yards before missing the last two games.

“It’s frustrating,” Evans said. “I’ve never been in this

situation before. The goal is to play without being hampered.”

Baltimore has scored 34 points or more in three of its first

four games, but quarterback Joe Flacco has completed less than 50

percent of his passes in two contests and didn’t throw a touchdown

pass in the win over the Jets.

Flacco, whose 243.3 passing yards per game rank 18th in the

league, will look to exploit a Texans (3-2) defense that could be

down after losing Williams for the season to a torn pectoral

muscle.

Williams, who moved from defensive end to linebacker for 2011,

was making quick progress in his new role, recording five sacks and

a forced fumble before the getting hurt during last Sunday’s 25-20

loss to Oakland.

“You’re never going to replace a guy like Mario,” linebacker

Brian Cushing said. “At the same time, it’s the ‘next guy up’

attitude.”

Rookie Brooks Reed, a second-round draft pick who had four

tackles last week, is expected to move into Williams’ spot in the

starting lineup.

“It’s a great opportunity here in his young career to step up

and be a starter,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “That’s why we drafted

him. (He’s) very capable of doing it. He’ll get his opportunity

here.”

Star receiver Andre Johnson also isn’t expected to play this

weekend for Houston. He’s missed the last two games with a

hamstring injury, leaving Schaub without his favorite target.

The Texans acquired veteran Derrick Mason from the Jets this

week to help add depth to the receiving corps. Mason, who had spent

the previous six seasons in Baltimore, made little impact in five

games with New York, totaling 13 catches for 115 yards.

“He’s been very effective in this league, and we feel like we

can catch him up really fast,” Kubiak said. “That was a big

key.”

Johnson’s injury isn’t the only concern on offense. Schaub is

dealing with a sore shoulder and a thigh bruise and missed practice

Wednesday.

Fullback James Casey (strained pectoral muscle) and right guard

Mike Brisiel (ankle and knee) left last Sunday’s game and their

status for this week is uncertain.

All of those injuries will continue to place the burden of the

offense on Arian Foster, who rushed for 68 yards and had 116 yards

receiving last weekend in his second game back from a hamstring

injury.

Houston has never defeated Baltimore in four meetings. The

Ravens won 34-28 in overtime last December despite blowing a

21-point lead on the road.