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Late For Work 9/20: Anyone Picking Ravens To Beat Texans?

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Texans-Ravens Picks: Only One Local Analyst Believes

Matt Vensel is going against the rest of his Baltimore Sun colleagues.

He's the only one out of seven predicting a Ravens win over the Texans in Sunday's matchup.

The six that are picking the Texans cite various reasons, including too many injuries and poor matchups for the Ravens. Also, Baltimore is still figuring out its identity with so many personnel changes, while the Texans already know who they are.

Vensel admits Baltimore hasn't shown very much to justify a predicted win, but knows the Ravens would like to avenge their worst loss of last season.

On the national front, there are others that predicted a Ravens win, but they are in the minority. Only 14 of the 36 national experts below believe Baltimore will have a 2-1 record come Monday morning.

The Texans have played poorly in the early portions of their first two games, only to come back in the final minutes. With the Ravens having home-field advantage, the thought is that the Texans won't be able to muster a comeback win at M&T Bank Stadium.

**The Baltimore Sun**: 1 of 7 pick the Ravens

Matt Vensel (Ravens 24, Texans 23): "The Ravens haven't shown much that suggests they can beat an AFC powerhouse like the Texans. But after getting whooped by the Texans last year, the Ravens will make a statement at home on Sunday."

Jeff Zrebiec (Texans 24, Ravens 20): "Much like the Broncos, the Texans are just not a good matchup for the Ravens, who are still developing an offensive and defensive identity. Houston won't be as forgiving of the Ravens' shortcomings as the Browns were."

Aaron Wilson (Texans 24, Ravens 20): "Ravens fall short in difficult matchup against Texans defense headlined by defensive lineman J.J. Watt and linebacker Brian Cushing and offense featuring balance between running game split between Arian Foster and Ben Tate and passing game led by quarterback Matt Schaub."

**ProFootballTalk.com**: 1 of 2 pick the Ravens
Michael David Smith (Texans 17, Ravens 9): "The defending Super Bowl champions just haven't looked particularly good on either side of the ball this season, and I don't see that changing any time soon. J.J. Watt is going to make life miserable for Joe Flacco as Houston wins a low-scoring game."

Mike Florio (Ravens 24, Texans 21): "Both teams are banged up a bit, and each has struggled.  Give the home team the edge — even though Ed Reed could end up making the difference for Houston."

**Sports Illustrated, Don Banks**: Ravens 27, Texans 24
"The Texans are walking a tight rope that's not sustainable, becoming the first team since the 1970 merger to open the season with consecutive wins on the final play of the game. Beating San Diego and Tennessee that way is impressive enough, but the Baltimore home-field advantage is something not to be trifled with. The Ravens haven't put four good quarters together yet, but doing things the hard way is just their style. It would seem old friend Ed Reed (hip) is preparing to finally make his Texans debut this week, just in time for the trip to Charm City and the ceremony that will induct ex-teammate Ray Lewis into the Ravens' Ring of Honor."

**CBSSports.com, Pete Prisco**: Ravens 21, Texans 17
"The Texans embarrassed the Ravens last year in the regular season. But that was at Houston. Now the Ravens get their chance at home. The Ravens have struggled up front, which isn't a good thing against J.J. Watt and his mates. But I think they get it righted some here."

**NFL.com, Elliot Harrison**: Ravens 24, Texans 23
"The Houston Texans will fall short on Sunday. It might seem odd to predict such an outcome, knowing that the Baltimore Ravens got their butts handed to them, to the tune of a 43-13 loss, in Texas last year. This matchup, however, is in Baltimore, which means the Texans can ill-afford to sleepwalk through portions of it, as they did in their first two contests of the season. Ray Rice is taking it easy this week, though he'll probably play against the Texans. That will be a big factor when it comes to determining the outcome, though not as big as this one: How uncomfortable can the Ravens' defense make life for Matt Schaub, who has been sacked just four times thus far? The guess here is that Schaub will go down four more times on Sunday alone, as the Ravens already have eight sacks on the season. Houston running back Arian Foster faces a defense that has allowed 65 yards per game and 3 yards per carry. Elsewhere on offense, receiver Andre Johnson, who is recovering from a concussion, will need to be on his 'A' game."

**The Sporting News, Vinnie Iyer**: Texans 23, Ravens 20
"John Harbaugh's reigning Ravens are having a rougher time staying atop the AFC, as they need to work to rediscover an offensive rhythm (with Anquan Boldin gone, Dennis Pitta injured and Ray Rice hurting) and still waiting for wholesale changes to jell on defense."

ESPN.com: 4 of 13 pick the Ravens, including Mike Golic, Ron Jaworski and Chis Mortensen
YahooSports.com
: 0 of 2 pick the Ravens
USA Today
: 1 of 7 picks the Ravens
CBSSports.com
: 5 of 8 pick the Ravens

Flacco Playing Better Than Numbers Show

Through two weeks of the regular season, quarterback Joe Flacco's numbers have been "largely unspectacular," says Matt Zenitz of the Carroll County Times.

Flacco's quarterback rating ranks as the 24th-best among NFL starting quarterbacks. He's completed just 58.9 percent of his passes for 573 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions

"Flacco's numbers may not rank among the better quarterbacks in the league right now, but that has to do with a lot more than just the play of Flacco," Zenitz wrote.

Those reasons include playing with a largely new receiving corps, and many of his passes have been dropped. Flacco's pass catchers have dropped seven balls, according to Pro Football Focus, and that doesn't count a handful of others they've gotten their hands on but didn't hold on to, say Zenitz.

Head Coach John Harbaugh agrees with the notion that Flacco's play is better than it appears on the stats sheet.

"The first game for sure because he had all the drops," Harbaugh said. "[Sunday], he played well [enough] to win the game. He made some throws that could have been game-changers in the first half if we come up with those catches. …

"The second half, he converted the third downs. That was big. I don't know if the numbers, they might not have been that [special], but they were pretty darn good, and they were good enough to win the game."

Medical Expert On Severity Rice's Hip Injury

Harbaugh said that Rice's hip injury isn't very serious, and an independent medical expert, who is not treating Rice, agrees.

Dr. Derek Ochiai, a hip arthroscopic surgeon and sports medicine doctor in Virginia, told The Sun's Aaron Wilson that Rice should be able to return to game action soon, perhaps even by this Sunday.

"I saw the play that Ray got injured on and you can definitely see the hip flexor strain," Ochiai said. "He was trying to cut and he extended his hip when he was trying to flex it and overstrained. Uniformly, injuries like this don't require surgery. The initial diagnosis is a physical exam and pressing and moving the hip to determine how severe the injury is. An MRI is really good at assessing soft-tissue injury, but it's not necessary to diagnose a strain.

"If somebody has normal strength with no limp and is running and you can believe them when they say they don't have any pain, then it would be fine to let them go back and play at that point," Ochiai said. "If you meet those criteria, your risk of re-injury is very close to before the injury. So, being cautious and taking an extra week won't make any real difference."

One Day After Return, Thompson Back On Non-Participant List

There was optimism surrounding receiver Deonte Thompson after he returned to practice Wednesday for the first time in nearly six weeks.

But one day after his return, Thompson landed back on the non-participant list in practice Thursday.

Baltimore Beatdown's Jason Butt called the development "concerning."

Marlon Aims For Third TD, Torrey Looking For First

The Texans have struggled to keep wide receivers out of the end zone through two games, notes CBSSports.com's Chris Towers.

For the Ravens, hopefully that means Marlon Brown will get his third touchdown in as many games and No. 1 receiver Torrey Smith notches his first.

"Scoring three weeks in a row is a tough task to accomplish, but the Texans' defense has had trouble keeping track of receivers near the end zone," wrote Towers. "Opposing wide receivers have totaled just 216 yards through two games against Houston, but have scored four times out of 20 receptions."

Watch Out For WR Hopkins And Those HUGE Hands

Much attention has been focused on Andre Johnson and his playing status this week. The massive six-time Pro Bowler left last week's Titans matchup with a concussion, but he is expected to play against the Ravens.

Filling in for Johnson last week, rookie DeAndre Hopkins had a breakout game catching seven passes for 117 yards. Oh, and he scored the winning touchdown in overtime.

"He wears size 3X gloves, only one size smaller than J.J. Watt, who is four inches taller and 70 pounds heavier than Hopkins," wrote ESPN's Tania Ganguli. "Those big hands give him the confidence to catch with his hands and not worry about bringing the ball into his body. Because of that, Hopkins is excellent on contested catches. … Hopkins' impact will be big this season. He finally gives the Texans a complementary threat to Andre Johnson."

Quick Hits

  • Is running back Shaun Draughn![](/team/roster/shaun-draughn/fcfcaa17-9df6-44ab-8af7-2dc782030c3d/ "Shaun Draughn") already ready? Draughn has never suited up for the Ravens, as he was a healthy scratch in Week 2. "Obviously, he's not going to be able to come in and do everything that the rest of the guys can do who have been here a number of years," Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell said. "He's going to play a role for us, that is for sure."
  • The Cleveland Browns made it official and signed former Ravens running back Willis McGahee to a one-year contract after he passed his physical. [National Football Post]
  • @mzenitz: Reed on what he's expecting from fans Sun.: "I don't know. .. Fans can be tricky. I guess it's all how they feel and how the tailgating goes" [Twitter]
  • @ihatejjredick Sports blogger]: Ray Lewis giving #Ravens a pregame speech Sunday is [like hooking up with an ex. It's gonna feel great but you know it's time to move on. [Twitter]
  • @mzenitz: In regards to Jimmy Smith, Pees warned against rushing to judgment on a CB after just two years in the league [Twitter]
  • @ravenssalarycap: Ravens are currently $1,975,052 under Salary Cap. Not a lot of space 4 any future injury replacements. [Twitter]
  • @mzenitz: Reading into what Jim Caldwell said about Bernard Pierce, it seems like Ray Rice either won't play Sunday or, at best, will be limited [Twitter]
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