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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late

Prediction: BAL 13, HOU 17

Update: To avoid any conflicts with Hurricane Ike, this game has been moved to Monday night so figure that into your starting decisions. As expected, Willis McGahee will return this week after being limited in practice until Friday when he had a full day. He may not start and he will be sharing with likely both Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain so none of the backs are safe plays this week. Rice is likely the best but that still could really vary depending on game situation and how McGahee does.

Ahman Green will not play this week and be replaced by both Steve Slaton and Chris Taylor.

The Ravens come to town with a 1-0 record thanks to hosting the hapless Bengals last week and pummeling them with an effective ground game. The Texans are back at home after getting demolished in Pittsburgh and once again faces a good defense. This game could go either way and hinges on the mistakes that are made. Flacco is still a rookie and the Ravens are not a great road team so the Texans should squeak this one past even without a decent rushing game.

Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
Homefield: M&T Bank Stadium
Sport Turf
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 CIN 17-10 +1 39
2 @HOU - +4.5 37
3 CLE - - -
4 @PIT - - -
5 TEN - - -
6 @IND - - -
7 @MIA - - -
8 OAK - - -
9 @CLE - - -
10 BYE - - -
11 @NYG - - -
12 PHI - - -
13 @CIN - - -
14 WAS - - -
15 PIT - - -
16 @DAL - - -
17 JAX - - -
BAL at HOU Rush Catch Pass
QB Joe Flacco 20   170
RB Willis McGahee 30    
RB Ray Rice 70,1 20  
TE Todd Heap   40  
WR Mark Clayton   40  
WR Demetrius Williams   20  
WR Derrick Mason   50  
PK Matt Stover 2 FG 1 XP  
Pregame Notes: The Ravens start the season on a high note with a win but it came in a most conventional manner. The move to a new coaching staff with a hot rookie QB was supposed to be a new direction but the Ravens beat up on the Bengals like always - great rushing game and a dominating defense. On the road this week won't be easier but by week four, the Ravens will know where they stand in the division after having played all three teams.

Quarterback: The debut of Joe Flacco went well enough with a win but the rookie only completed 15 of 29 passes for 129 yards and no scores. That was rather Boller-ish other than not using Todd Heap. But Flacco also was not sacked nor had any turnovers and he rushed four times for 37 yards and a very important touchdown. Flacco favored Derrick Mason the most with six passes thrown to him, but he also had five throws to Heap but only connected on one.

Running Backs: Willis McGahee dressed last week but was held out of action by the coaching staff because it was feared he might hurt his knee after not practicing much in recent weeks. HC John Harbaugh said that McGahee could get some carries this week which is really saying nothing. The Ravens split duty last week between Ray Rice (22-64) and converted fullback Le'Ron McClain (19-86). It was an effective rushing attack and last week the Ravens just pounded the Bengals.

Now that there are three running backs at play for the Ravens, it makes relying on any one of them harder. You should also be concerned if you paid much for McGahee in your draft because the Ravens rushed well last week and should have some success on Sunday. I projecting for Ray Rice as the starter but the extent that McGahee and McClain figure in will depend on a coaching whim and game situation. Start any of the Ravens running backs at your own risk.

Wide Receivers: The more things change, the more they remain the same. Derrick Mason (4-44) was the primary receiver last week though Mark Clayton (3-21) wasn't far behind and neither had reliable fantasy value. Clayton did run in a 42-yard double reverse for a score last week but otherwise the wideouts here did little against a soft secondary of the Bengals. The rushing game ensured that they would not throw much and Flacco barely completed 50% when he did.

Tight Ends: Todd Heap only had one catch for five yards last week and he fumbled on that play anyway. But he had five passes thrown to him and had his number called as much as any other receiver. Too early to assume the demise of Heap's fantasy value but Flacco needs to start completing those passes.

Match Against the Defense: The Texans defense was shredded by Willie Parker last week but that was in Pittsburgh and the Texans are at home this week where last year they only allowed two runners to have a 100+ yardage game. The Ravens are going to feature the run and have moderate success with it but assigning projections is a tougher job given the questions in the backfield. I would expect Rice to be the primary runner this week but it could be a three man show.

Flacco will continue through his learning curve and it is unlikely he is leaving Houston without knowing what a sack feels like. Still far too early to rely on any component of the Ravens passing game though Heap should do much better than the single catch he had last week.

Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 18 12 19 31 17 13
Preventing Fantasy Points HOU 17 30 23 12 25 28

Houston Texans (0-1)
Homefield: Reliant Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 @PIT 17-38 +6.5 43
2 BAL - -4.5 37
3 @TEN - - -
4 @JAX - - -
5 IND - - -
6 MIA - - -
7 DET - - -
8 BYE - - -
9 @MIN - - -
10 CIN - - -
11 @IND - - -
12 @CLE - - -
13 JAX - - -
14 @GB - - -
15 TEN - - -
16 @OAK - - -
17 CHI - - -
HOU vs BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Schaub     210,2
RB Ahman Green 30 10
RB Chris Taylor 30 10  
RB Steve Slaton 50 20  
TE Owen Daniels   40,1  
WR Andre Johnson   80,1  
WR David Anderson   20  
WR Kevin Walter   30  
PK Kris Brown 1 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The Texans were crushed in Pittsburgh last week in a game that was nowhere near as close as 17-38 suggests. Most of the success passing came late in the game when the Steelers started trading out starters for backups and the Texans scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. It was a beatdown with very little good that could come from it. The Texans have a horrible opening schedule for the first five weeks and after this game will be back on the road to TEN and JAX before coming back to face IND. That is not a nice way to start the year and not one that will help Matt Schaub maintain favor with the coaching staff.

Quarterback: While Matt Schaub ended with 202 yards and a score against the Steelers, most of that success came late in the game and he also had two interceptions, one lost fumble and was sacked five times. What is unfortunate for Schaub is that his backup Sage Rosenfels played well last year and the more Schaub struggles, the more the coaches could cast a raised eyebrow at Rosenfels. Schaub has five straight bad matchups to start the year and if he can weather those, the passing gets a lot easier. Schaub still managed to complete 10 passes to Andre Johnson last week.

Running Backs: Ahman Green suffered a sprain ankle last week because he is Ahman Green. He only had five carries at Pittsburgh and managed to gain three yards on only four catches. Until he is officially counted out, I will project for yet another insignificant showing from him which ends in injury at some point within the game. Steve Slaton is the closet thing to a reliable player in the backfield and he gained 43 yards on 13 carries last Sunday. He also added three catches for six yards, more than doubling the average of Green.

The Texans are calling up free agent running backs already so this could change by game time. For now, expect Green until ruled out (entirely possible) and Slaton to share the load.

Wide Receivers: Say what you want about the Texans or even Matt Schaub but Andre Johnson is a stud. He left Pittsburgh with ten catches for 112 yards and while much of that came late in the game, no wideout had more than 81 yards in Pittsburgh in all of last year. Johnson is the focal point of the passing game and since the rushing attack is so anemic, he is pretty much the offense at this point.

Kevin Walter takes advantage of not being Johnson and had a touchdown last week during his three catches for 41 yards. Playing in Pittsburgh is about as tough as it gets for a passing attack and the Texans at least produced some moderate fantasy numbers.

Tight Ends: The Texans used Owen Daniels on four pass plays which was second only to Andre Johnson. Daniels ended with three catches for 33 yards and should be no worse this week against a similar defense.

Match Against the Defense: How much of last week was Houston playing in a bad venue and the Ravens getting a treat by hosting the Bengals will be more apparent this week. The Ravens held the Bengals to only 50 yards on 20 rushing attempts and that could be high side for what to expect this week in Houston. The Texans are going to have to pass to succeed and get a good showing by the defense going against a rookie passer.

The Ravens crushed Carson Palmer last week (10-25, 99 yards) but that won't happen again in a road game. This will be a low scoring game to be sure and it hurts for the Texans to not have a formidable rushing attack. It is hard to every bet against Andre Johnson who is a must start each week. But Owen Daniels should definitely have a better showing this week since the cornerbacks will be limiting the wideouts and forcing Schaub to the middle of the field.

Gaining Fantasy Points HOU 8 29 10 20 20 17
Preventing Fantasy Points BAL 1 1 7 9 7 27

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