Baltimore Ravens: 3 Toughest Games on Remaining Schedule

David A. CucchiaraCorrespondent IOctober 2, 2012

Baltimore Ravens: 3 Toughest Games on Remaining Schedule

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    Through the first four weeks of the season the Baltimore Ravens have looked like a quality football team.

    Week one against a solid Cincinnati Bengals team the Ravens defense flexed their muscle. Andy Dalton was held to a measly 221 yards passing and was intercepted by the ageless Ed Reed.

    On the other side of the ball, Joe Flacco has exceeded all expectations. What was supposed to be an offense centered around running back Ray Rice has turned into one of the most prolific passing attacks in the league.

    Flacco is averaging 317.3 yards passing a game, throwing for 1269 total yards this season. He only trails Drew Brees and Eli Manning for most in the league.

    While Flacco has been good, this Ravens team has been cutting it close. In week two, Flacco came up short on the final drive in a heart-breaking loss at Philadelphia.

    The Ravens would have their revenge in the next week against the New England Patriots after kicker Justin Tucker hit a 27 yard field goal to sneak-out a victory, 31-30.

    What’s ahead for the Ravens? An assortment of tough games that refuse to let up.

    Here are the three biggest challenges left on the Ravens remaining schedule.

October 21: Houston Texans

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    Few teams look as complete as the Houston Texans.

    This Texans offense is different from that of the last few seasons; they’ve become the most offensively balanced team in the NFL.

    Running back Arian Foster made a name for himself in 2010 when he rushed for over 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns. This year he’s well on pace to rush for over 1,000 yards, while Auburn product Ben Tate looks to compliment him in the running game.

    Schaub is playing more conservatively this season, passing for 953 yards in the first four games. His touchdown to interception ratio is impressive, throwing for seven touchdowns and one pick.

    The offense has been outstanding, but what may come as the biggest surprise is this Texans defense.

    The story for this defense has been 23-year-old J.J. Watt out of Wisconsin. In only his second season, Watt leads the league in sacks with 7.5. He’s also recovered two fumbles and acquired 20 tackles.

    With Watt leading the way, the defense has managed to force five fumbles and 13 total sacks this season. Overall, they rank second in pass defense, 11th in rush.

    For the Ravens to beat this team, Ray Rice is going to have to go rush-for-rush with Adrian Foster and Flacco needs to put up at least 300 yards through the air.

    This should be the hardest game left on Baltimore’s schedule, but one of the best match ups to watch as a fan.

November 25: San Diego Chargers

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    The San Diego Chargers remaining schedule is one of the easiest in the NFL. Don’t be surprised if this Chargers team is 8-2 when they face the Ravens in November.

    8-2 may look good on paper, but overall this is not a very impressive offensive squad. It appears to be another average year for quarterback Philip Rivers, who has nearly as many turnovers (4) as touchdowns (6).

    Jackie Battle and Ryan Mathews have been splitting time in the backfield. Battle is averaging a respectable 5.1 yards per carry, while Mathews is averaging 4.4.

    So why is this team one of the hardest on the Raven’s schedule?

    The Chargers defense is sixth in the league guarding against the run. Linebackers Donald Bulter along with veteran Takeo Spikes should help contain pro-bowler Ray Rice.

    For the Ravens to win this game, Flacco is going to need to provide a solid game through the air, pass for for another 300 yards, as he’s become so accustomed to this season.

    Look for the containment of Ray Rice in this game, but a Ravens victory led by Flacco.

December 23: New York Giants

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    No other 2-2 team in the league has played better football than the New York Giants.

    Led by quarterback Eli Manning, the Giants passing offense is ranked second in the NFL.

    Their running game has new life with the help of Andre Brown. In week three, the Giants routed the Panthers, and Brown introduced himself to the NFL by rushing for 113 yards with two touchdowns on twenty carries.

    Against the Eagles, the Giants could have easily obtained a victory if not for an offensive pass interference call on Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden. The call set kicker Lawrence Tynes up for a 54 yard field goal instead of what would have been a 44 yard attempt. Tynes would miss the kick.

    If free safety Ed Reed can contain the Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz, and the Ravens defensive line can put enough pressure on Eli Manning, the Ravens should win this game.