No time for an extended intro today. Before we jump into the prediction racket, I've been asked to direct your attention to two things that you may find worth a click and a read.
First, here's this week's edition of "Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!" from SB Nation. As Texans-Ravens is the premiere NFL matchup this week, the boys at SB Nation decided to make it the focus of attention in their weekly feature. Admittedly, the format looks similar to MDC's Pregame; that makes sense, as I understand that The Pregame was inspired by the same format that inspired "Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!".
Second, Stephanie Stradley is trying to win Super Bowl tickets. You can assist in that endeavor by clicking here and following the prompts. I'm not saying she promised to buy you a drink in New Orleans over Super Bowl Weekend if she wins, but I'm also not not saying it.
Time to make with the rapid-fire and poorly reasoned predictions for Sunday's tilt between the Ravens of Baltimore and your Houston Texans.
1. Arian Foster runs well on Sunday afternoon, but he doesn't run wild like so many are predicting. It's been popular to opine that Foster will run all over a struggling Baltimore defense on Sunday. I don't think Baltimore's run defense is as bad as it's looked, though losing Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb certainly doesn't lend any credence to my argument. I think the Ravens are going to make Matt Schaub beat 'em, and that'll mean dispensing with the silly notion that Bernard Pollard can cover anyone consistently in favor of letting him be the box safety he truly is, all the while counting on Ed Reed to be everywhere in center field all afternoon. Arian finds the end zone and finishes with 122 total yards; 28 of those yards are of the receiving variety.
2. Johnathan Joseph will play on Sunday. It won't be pretty. I firmly believe he's hurt far worse than the Texans are letting on, and having to cover Torrey Smith or Anquan Boldin does not afford one the ability to hide. I fear a big game from Joe Flacco, especially if the Texans continue to struggle getting pressure off the edge. I think Wade Phillips is going to be adamant about not letting Ray Rice beat the Texans, and that likely means Danieal Manning or Glover Quin (most likely Quin, in my opinion) shadows Rice most, if not all, afternoon. That means Flacco is going to have opportunities down the field. A gimpy J-Jo and Kareem Jackson--better though he may be--do not inspire much confidence, particularly without a consistent pass rush to lessen the amount of time they have to cover. Flacco will throw three TDs and one interception. Texans fans will proceed to spend the next two weeks freaking out about J-Jo and debating whether Aaron Glenn could be persuaded to come out of retirement.
3. Jacoby Jones will fumble a punt deep in Baltimore territory, the Texans will recover, and it will lead to a touchdown for the good guys thanks to a short field. I'm not so much predicting this as I am demanding it happens. Even then, it would not balance the cosmic scales. A muffed punt in a divisional round playoff game outweighs a muffed punt in a regular season game. The Texans will still be in karmic arrears, albeit much less so, after Jakespeare does what Jakespeare does on Sunday.
If I looked at the preceding prediction objectively, remembering how putrid Houston's special teams have been this season, I'd likely revise my prediction. I refuse to do that. Jakespeare will fumble. It's the biggest lock of all time. It has been written. It shall be done.
PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: For all the talk about the defenses, Sunday's going to be about offense. I like the Texans to bounce back from the Green Bay debacle, prevailing in a close contest and firmly establishing themselves as the No. 1 seed in the AFC as they head into their off week. Ravens 24, Texans 28.