Before the season started, the Houston Texans visiting the Baltimore Ravens was one of the more hyped games to watch for in the first few weeks. While some of that hype has died down, this is still one of the best games to watch for in Week 3.
The Texans have played in two wild games to start the season. After pulling off a terrific comeback victory over the San Diego Chargers, they came right back the next week and wound up with a game-winning touchdown in overtime over the Tennessee Titans.
For the Ravens, they got destroyed by Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' passing attack, then narrowly beat the Cleveland Browns 14-6 in Week 2. That's not the best start for the defending Super Bowl champion.
With two games down, we've gotten a good feel of both teams. With that being said, we're able to come up with some pretty bold predictions for Sunday's big game.
Matt Schaub Goes For 300-Plus Yards and 3-Plus Touchdowns
Despite being criticized often for not being considered a top-tier quarterback, Schaub has had quite a strong start to the season.
How many touchdowns does Schaub throw this week?
Through two weeks, Schaub already has 644 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. He's had three touchdowns in both of his games and was just two yards away against San Diego from having two 300-yard games.
DeAndre Hopkins has been a big reason for Schaub's success. The rookie already has 183 yards on 12 catches with a game-winning touchdown against Tennessee in overtime. Hopkins helps spread the field and take a lot of the pressure off of Andre Johnson and the running game.
The Ravens got torched by Peyton Manning in Week 1, then allowed Brandon Weeden to have a decent performance with 227 yards, no touchdowns and no picks. The pass coverage, according to Pro Football Focus, has a grade of -8.8, or the sixth lowest in the NFL (subscription required).
Schaub is going to have a big game, and that's going to have the Ravens defense regrouping after Week 3.
Marlon Brown Becomes Joe Flacco's Favorite Target
So far, the Ravens receivers haven't done much. Flacco hasn't helped, throwing for 573 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Torrey Smith has been decent, catching 11 balls on 22 targets for 177 yards.
The bright spot on this offense, however, has been Marlon Brown. At 6'5'', Brown went undrafted out of Georgia but was given a chance by the Ravens in April (after the draft) and made the team after training camp.
So far, Brown has been an exciting red-zone threat, almost taking the role of Anquan Boldin from last season. He has just eight receptions so far, but he's turned those catches into 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Given how good Brown has looked, Flacco is going to start trusting him more and giving him some more targets this week. The fact that both Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley have been targeted more so far seems crazy.
Brown is becoming an undrafted rookie success story, and he seems motivated to become the best receiver on the roster.
The Ravens Ground Game Struggles Badly
The Ravens were considered a balanced offense in 2012, but that seems to have changed up to this point in the season.
The play-calling hasn't been balanced at all. Flacco has thrown the ball 95 times while the team, as a whole, has run the ball 57 times. Last season, the team had 560 pass attempts with 444 rushing attempts. That's 62.5 percent passing this season, up from 55.8 percent last year.
The ground game has also been much less effective in 2013. After averaging 4.3 yards per carry last season, they're gaining only 2.8 yards per carry this season.
To make matters worse, Ray Rice has missed practice this week and is being officially listed as doubtful for Sunday, according to ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
Injury report: Ray Rice is officially doubtful http://t.co/nGZcZJO9xP— Jamison Hensley (@HensleyESPN) September 20, 2013
The Texans run defense has been average, but it's going to look even better this week going against just Bernard Pierce in the backfield. Pierce has just 79 yards on 2.8 yards per carry so far this season.
It looks like Flacco is going to have to throw even more this week, especially if Rice isn't good to go.