The Game to Watch This Sunday
Depending on your team loyalty, this NFL season is becoming one to remember or forget. The AFC has only two teams with a winning record, and they will meet on Sunday morning, (10:00 PDT), to decide who will be the lead dog in the conference.
The Baltimore Ravens, at 5-1, will be in Houston to take on the Texans, also boasting a 5-1 record.
The Ravens, who season after season have boasted one of the best defenses in football, are no longer feared by the rest of the league. And now they have lost their defensive leader in Ray Lewis, most likely for the season. But, they still have enough talent to ‘get the job done’, and Lewis will be trying to motivate them from the sidelines.
The biggest question for them is which offense will arrive on the plane in Houston. The Ravens have adopted a “hurry up” style hoping to catch the opposing team in confusion, and virtually preventing substitutions. I’m not sure it’s the best choice for them. Joe Flacco can be Jekyll or Hyde at any moment. He has a good arm, but his decision making is suspect. He has one of the most talented receiving corps in football, but their offensive success lies on the shoulders of their running back, Ray Rice. When he gains 100 yards, they seldom lose.
With the exception of last week’s debacle against the Green Bay Packers, the Texans appeared to be the team to beat in the AFC.
Their defense, assembled by their head coach Gary Kubiak, is the strength of the team. Wade Phillips, the defensive coordinator, didn’t make the grade as a head coach, but is one of the best running the defense. Defensive end J.J. Watt is the best defensive lineman in football. If he isn’t sacking the quarterback, he’s swatting away pass attempts. The secondary has played well until last week when they allowed Aaron Rodgers to complete six touchdown passes. And, like the Ravens, they have lost their best linebacker, Brian Cushing for the season on an illegal block.
Offensively Matt Schaub has proven himself as one of the best quarterbacks in football. He may not have the statistics of Rodgers, Brees, or Brady, but he recognizes defenses well, and keeps his team in a position to win. He is fortunate to have one of the best wide receivers in the league, Andre Johnson. But the power behind their offensive engine is Arian Foster. He and Adrian Peterson are the league’s best running backs. As Foster goes, so goes the Texans.
As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between these two teams. The Ravens have battled their AFC nemesis the Pittsburgh Steelers for division champion as far back as I can remember. (At one time they were the Cleveland Browns.) In previous years the Indianapolis Colts were the Texans biggest obstacle, losing their duel with Peyton Manning all too frequently. Tomorrow will be a test for both teams. I don’t believe there is any ‘home field advantage’ in this game. It should be a battle worth watching.