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'08 Game Preview: Ravens


As the Texans gear up for training camp, excitement for the 2008 season continues to build. Here is an in-depth look at each of the team's regular season games with some insights from SportsRadio 610's Marc Vandermeer.

Teams: Texans vs. Baltimore Ravens (Sunday, Sept. 14)

Game Preview: In the Texans' Liberty White Liftoff home opener, they will host the Baltimore Ravens, a team that struggled in their visiting white uniforms last year. The Ravens are coming off a 5-11 season. They lost quarterback Steve McNair and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden to retirement and they hired head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron this offseason. To say this team is in transition is an understatement, especially when it comes to the quarterback position.

McNair's injury last season forced Baltimore to look to backups Kyle Boller and Troy Smith, but neither was able to solidify the position. That led the Ravens to drafting first-round pick Joe Flacco out of Delaware. A three-way race between Boller, Smith and Flacco during training camp and the preseason should determine the starter. Regardless of who wins, the position appears to be a weak link. Boller finished last year with 1,743 passing yards and nine touchdowns and Baltimore struggled to score, as the team averaged just 17.2 points per game.

{QUOTE}It doesn't help the Ravens that their offensive weapons are limited to wideout Derrick Mason and running back Willis McGahee. Mason, a 12-year veteran who notched 1,087 receiving yards last year, and McGahee, who rushed for 1,207 yards, will be facing an improved Texans defense led by Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans.

The Texans' defense should be able to take advantage of Baltimore's young offensive line. Second-year left tackle Jared Gaither faces a huge task in trying to replace future Hall of Famer Ogden, and linemen Adam Terry, Ben Grubbs, Jason Brown, Chris Chester and Marshal Yanda each have less than five years of experience.

On offense, the Texans should be able to execute the balanced attack that head coach Gary Kubiak has been preaching. The Ravens still have safety Ed Reed in the backfield and they probably will put cornerback Chris McAlister on wideout Andre Johnson. But Johnson and quarterback Matt Schaub should have a field day with the Ravens' secondary.

Houston's passing game will keep the defense on its heels, allowing the Texans to get the job done on the ground. While Ravens linebackers Ray Lewis and Bart Scott still can make plays, this is not the defense that took the Ravens to the Super Bowl in 2001. Lewis is entering his 13th season, and the Texans' running back-by-committee approach could wear him down. Plus, the Ravens proved their defensive weakness by giving up an average of 24 points per game last season, which ranked 22nd in the NFL.

"What you are going to see here is the Texans running the ball effectively against the Ravens, and then you are going to have play action and all those wonderful things that develop as a result of that," Vandermeer said. "The bootlegs will work great because they are going to have to bring up extra people to try to stop the run. I think the Texans are going to be able to run the ball very effectively against the Ravens, and it's going to open up the aerial attack."

Key Matchups: Quarterback Matt Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson taking advantage of a weak Ravens' secondary.

Vandermeer's pick: "I like the Texans by double figures in this game."

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