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Game Preview: Texans vs. Ravens


The Ravens took their worst loss of the John Harbaugh era the last time they faced the Texans, falling by 30 points in Houston.

This year's rematch will be an emotional one.

The Ravens will be looking to avenge that loss. At the same time, legendary linebacker Ray Lewis will go into the Ravens Ring of Honor and former Baltimore safety Ed Reed will be on the other sideline.

Besides the excitement around the game, it should be a highly competitive battle on the field between two of the AFC's top teams.

Matchups To Watch

RT Michael Oher vs. DE J.J. Watt
Watt had a field day against the Ravens last year. He got his hands on two Joe Flacco passes, and one led to an interception return for a touchdown. Watt's the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, but Oher can't show him too much respect. Oher must get physical with Watt at the line to prevent him from leaping into passing lanes.

CB Jimmy Smith vs. WR DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins is nicknamed "Nuke." Smith needs to make sure the Texans aren't dropping any bombs Sunday. Hopkins emerged last week with seven catches for 117 yards and a touchdown. Smith also played very well last Sunday, limiting the Browns. The two talented youngsters should have a physical battle outside, as Smith likes to press bigger wideouts.

OLB Terrell Suggs vs. LT Derek Newton
The Texans have a big problem if starting left tackle Duane Brown (toe) isn't able to play, which looks likely. That would mean Houston would likely shift third-year right tackle Derek Newton to the left. The Ravens already have eight sacks this season, and Suggs has a pair. Baltimore could put some serious pressure on quarterback Matt Schaub.

Keys To The Game

Limit the run gameThe Texans offense thrives off play-action. But if Baltimore can stonewall Houston's talented running back duo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate and make the Texans more one-dimensional, the Ravens will gain a big advantage. The Ravens have allowed just 65 rushing yards per game over the first two weeks (seventh best in the league). They need to continue that dominance up front.

Get Bernard Pierce goingWith Ray Rice coming off a hip flexor strain, backup Bernard Pierce will have to carry most, if not all, of the load. Pierce has shown his potential as an explosive, one-cut runner and the Texans don't feel there is much drop-off from Rice. But Pierce has never carried a full NFL game before. It will be a test of his strength and endurance. The Ravens had troubles with their ground game in the first two weeks.

Protect Joe FlaccoHouston's front-seven can be flat-out scary. It's not just Watt coming off one edge of the defensive line, but Antonio Smith on the other, as well as blitz-happy linebackers Whitney Mercilus and Brian Cushing. The Texans largely won last year's game in the trenches. This year, the Ravens offensive line has to have one of its best games if Baltimore is going to win.

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