After four days in Orlando for the MLB Winter Meetings, where the Hot Stove was burning up with trades and free agent acquisitions but the weather was actually kinda chilly, I'm back in good old Baltimore and ready to return to Ravens headquarters.
My apologies for the lack of entries over the last couple days. Hope you can forgive me.
While I was away, the Ravens began preparations for their Monday nighter against the Texans, a 5-7 team who started off the 2010 season looking like they were legitimate contenders in the AFC, but have since lost five of their last six.
Houston has plenty to play for this week, as they'll be looking to keep their slim playoff hopes alive when they take the field on Monday at Reliant Stadium. With a loss, they would be all but eliminated from postseason contention.
Here's how the Ravens and Texans match up statistically going into this one:
Ravens: 341.7 (14th)
Texans: 373.0 (7th)
Ravens: 108.4 (16th)
Texans: 130.5 (7th)
Ravens: 233 3 (15th)
Texans: 242.5 (10th)
Ravens: 305.8 (7th)
Texans: 388.8 (29th)
Ravens: 97.8 (6th)
Texans: 101.4 (t-10th)
Ravens: 208.0 (11th)
Texans: 287.4 (31st)
Ravens: -2 (t-16th)
Texans: Even (t-13th)
As you might be able to tell from the numbers above, the Texans have a ton of talent on the offensive side of the ball, but are quite vulnerable on defense.
They have quite possibly the most dangerous running back/wide receiver punch in the entire league with Arian Foster (who leads the league in rushing) and Andre Johnson (who is fourth in the NFL in receiving, despite playing on a bum ankle most of the season).
Foster, a practice squad player much of last year, has burst onto the scene this season, rushing for 1,230 yards and 12 touchdowns. He's got deceptive speed, runs hard between the tackles, and is a threat in the receiving game. He has also single-handedly carried one of my fantasy teams, but we'll leave that alone for now.
At 6-3, 225 pounds, Johnson is one of the more physical receivers in the league, but he has incredible athleticism to go along with that size, and is a huge jump-ball threat. He could be trouble for a Baltimore secondary whose top three cornerbacks are 5-10 or shorter.
Leading the Houston offense is Matt Schaub, a quality quarterback who can sling it with the best of them when he has time to look downfield.
Defensively, however, the Texans are suspect. And that's putting it nicely.
Houston has been incredibly ineffective on defense this season, allowing 26.8 points per game, sixth-worst in the NFL.
The bulk of the damage done on the Texans' defense has been done through the air, where they have been burned more times than head coach Gary Kubiak would like to count. No game against the Texans is out of reach, largely because the Houston defense is incredibly susceptible to the big play, as we learned in Week 11, when they let the Jets march down the field with less than a minute left and no timeouts and score a game winning touchdown.
Up front, however, they possess one of the game's better pass rushers in defensive end Mario Williams. The former No. 1 pick has 8.5 sacks this season, including three in his last three games, and could give Michael Oher and Marshal Yanda trouble off the edges.
Overall, I think the Ravens are the better team here, but they by no means should take the Texans lightly. Houston has a ton of talent, and they're coming into this game on three extra days of rest after playing on Thursday night last week.
With their season on the line, the Texans will bring it, and the Ravens will need to put their tough loss to Pittsburgh behind them and try to right the ship.
I think this one will be close, largely because I expect Foster to have a big game, but I see the Ravens bouncing back from last week's heartbreaking loss and getting a nice road win.
Put me down for a 27-23 Baltimore victory.
What's your feeling about this one? Do you see the Ravens getting to 9-4 with a win in Houston? Or do the Texans scare you and leave you thinking that it could be two straight losses for John Harbaugh and company?
Who you got?