March 21, 2018

Know Your Opponent with JoeCNC

After the inexplicable defeat suffered at the hands of the Green Bay Packers, the Houston Texans are decidedly looking forward to the contest for week 7 versus the only other 5-1 team in the AFC (and only other team over .500 in the AFC, for that matter) the Baltimore Ravens. The Texans come into the game having faced the Ravens in 6 previous games and the Texans record versus the Ravens is a discouraging 0-6. The Texans are looking for a definitively different outcome this Sunday at Reliant and fans want to know what their squad is up against. So we bring in Joe Lucia, aka @JoeCNC, editor of The Outside Corner and beyond avid Baltimore Ravens fan. Joe knows what the Ravens have and what they will bring to Houston in this matchup, from injuries to a healthy Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, with just a touch of smack talk regarding what can be expected from the Ravens in the postseason. Great stuff.

Please continue to send in your questions regarding the Texans weekly opponent via Twitter using the hashtag #KYO, to @TheClaireBear23. We’ll pick the best and give your handle some love here at The State of the Texans’ weekly Know Your Opponent column. Your participation is invaluable and we love your interaction. Onto the story.

@OlYeller01 With Johnathan Joseph being obviously not himself, will the Ravens try to use the speed of Torrey Smith & Jacoby Jones to target him?

I would certainly hope so. Cam Cameron’s playcalling is questionable at times, but I would imagine he’d have watched last Sunday night’s game and saw Aaron Rodgers go crazy on the Texans secondary. Though it is worth noting that in last Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, the Ravens made much more use out of Anquan Boldin’s physicality against a tough Dallas secondary.


@TexanTakeover Who in your opinion was the overall greater loss this season? Ray Lewis, Ladarius Webb, or Terrell Suggs?

This is a tough question. We don’t know the effects of losing Webb or Lewis, but Webb is one of the best corners in the league for a secondary that has struggled at times this year. Former first round pick Jimmy Smith will be starting alongside Cary Williams now, and he needs to step up. Without Suggs, the Ravens’ pass rush has taken a dramatic step backwards, and that absolutely needs to change in order to have success. Thankfully, he was removed from the PUP list and will hopefully be back for the Browns game in week nine.


@RZBLM2K With Ray Lewis out, who steps up to become the emotional leader for the Ravens?

Suggs was also “that guy” last year, but there’s no denying that Lewis was the heart and soul of the defense. I think he’ll still be around doing his pep talks and such, but there’s no one that can adequately fill his role as the spirit of the team on the field. Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata just aren’t that type of guy. I actually think rookie Courtney Upshaw could make some noise with Lewis out and get the team fired up.


@Txbobbumman What is the perception of Joe Flacco in Baltimore? Does he get more respect there than he does nationally?

Yeah. This is a franchise that hasn’t had a potential franchise guy in its history until Flacco, unless you count a broken down Steve McNair. Flacco is the perfect guy for this offense and this franchise, and while he’d get skewered if he were playing in a market like New England or Green Bay, most Ravens fans realize that he’s exactly what this team needs as the signal caller. The team is so confident in him that last season and this season (until signing former Steeler Dennis Dixon to the practice squad recently), they’ve carried just one other quarterback on the roster: 2011 draftee Tyrod Taylor.


@JoeEatsTacos With Ravens missing Lewis, Webb, most likely Suggs, and possibly Ngata, are their back ups enough to hold the Texans O?

The big key, as I mentioned earlier, is Webb’s replacement Jimmy Smith. Smith missed a lot of time in his rookie year last season, and has shown flashes of brilliance this year while also causing fans to rage at times. If the Texans are able to keep their wideouts involved against Smith and Cary Williams in the game, they have a really good chance to win.


After a strong first three weeks the Ravens offense has slowed down the last three games. What will Flacco, Rice and crew do to reignite the offense?

Not sure that the offense has necessarily slowed down aside from the Dallas game. The Ravens put up 438 yards of offense against the Browns on a short week, but bunches of penalties and a terrible third down conversion rate led to that low point total. The Chiefs game was an abomination that saw the Ravens possess the ball for a hair under 26 minutes, which isn’t their style at all, and the Cowboys game this past week was all about time of possession. The Ravens held the ball for under 20 minutes on Sunday, which is a huge departure from the way this team used to play. But the thing is, Ray Rice’s ability to break long runs are a huge difference from Jamal Lewis and company methodically moving the chains. Having a guy like Torrey Smith with explosive speed helps a lot with quick points as well. The onus is actually on the defense in my mind here for allowing too many long drives. While the offense is actually on the field, they’re usually very efficient…they’re just not on the field all that much.


How have feelings toward OC Cam Cameron evolved in Baltimore?

Cameron is…an interesting figure. His playcalling is maddening at times, because he has one of the best running backs in the league and refuses to use him. Cameron’s logic is “we don’t want to burn him out”, but giving a player like Ray Rice less than 20-25 touches a game is downright criminal. Cameron also has this assumed pet project of trying to make Flacco a top tier QB, and his calls for Flacco to throw deep are extremely transparent. With the offensive talent on this team, it’s not hard to screw things up…but Cameron is trying pretty damn hard to do that.


What can we expect from Ray Rice versus the Texans rush defense?

If Rice gets his touches, he’ll get over 100 total yards (rushing/receiving). The thing about Rice is that he’s an extremely difficult player to prepare for. His speed is so ridiculous that you can load up the box and that with one Vonta Leach bulldozer block, Rice can spring free for a huge gain. Also, with his pass catching ability, he can turn a certain play that would have resulted in a third and long after a sack to Flacco into a catch of a dumped off pass and a marginal gain. There’s no “easy” way to stop Rice aside from making sure he doesn’t wriggle free once you get your hands on him.


Who are some nationally unknown Ravens we can expect to see plays from on Sunday?

I can’t really call Vonta Leach unknown after his stellar 2011 season with the Ravens (especially considering how great he was for Houston), but the man is an extremely underrated part of the team’s offense creating holes for Rice and even catching some swing passes and being able to pick up tough yardage. Tight end Dennis Pitta has become one of Flacco’s favorite safety valves and his size allows him to bring in nearly anything thrown in his direction. On the defensive side of the ball, Dannell Ellerbe will take on an increased role with Lewis out, and he could be the next great Ravens outside linebacker that signs elsewhere in free agency and falls off a cliff. He’s a very talented player who is third in the team in tackles and second in sacks, and no one knows his name. Also, look out for Paul Kruger, a former second round pick who has taken an increased role on defense this year after the departure of Cory Redding and is an absolute savage at rushing the QB.


Which matchups can the Ravens exploit versus the Texans?

Dennis Pitta against the Texans linebackers could be the key to the game, especially with no Brian Cushing. Pitta is so strong and athletic, and I think Flacco is going to go to him a lot across the middle for 10-12 yards a lot. Also, Anquan Boldin has a huge size advantage over Kareem Jackson that I think will play out very well for Flacco and the Ravens.


It’s early but this game has big implications for the AFC playoff picture. What do the Ravens need to do to get to the AFC Championship game?

After this Sunday’s game with the Texans, the Ravens get a bye and their schedule takes a turn towards the easier side of things for November before ticking up a bit in December. The two key games left are obviously the two Steelers games in three weeks. Winning both of them will pretty much lock up the AFC North title in a weak year for the division, and splitting the two while not losing their other three November games also puts the team in a very good position. The Ravens also have the unique circumstance of possibly playing all of the AFC’s division leaders (Houston, New England, plus the entire AFC West). That will certainly bode well for the team heading into the playoffs, especially if a first round bye is locked up. M&T Bank Stadium is not a kind place for opponents to play, but the Texans learned that twice last season.

Major appreciation to Joe Lucia who not only willingly but graciously addressed Houston Texans fans queries regarding the battle they face against the Baltimore Ravens this Sunday at Reliant Park. Follow Joe on Twitter at @JoeCNC.


One Response to “Know Your Opponent with JoeCNC”
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Claire talked to Joe CNC about the upcoming Ravens game in our Know Your Opponent segment. […]