Baltimore Ravens beat writer Edward Lee of the Baltimore Sun joined Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com for an exclusive interview to preview the Week 10 matchup between the Texans (3-5) and Ravens (5-3) at Reliant Stadium.
Lee has been covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun *since 2006. Prior to covering the Ravens, he covered the Washington Redskins for the *Sun from 2002-06.
Nick Scurfield:Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco has been on a roll lately. How much has he matured throughout this season?
Edward Lee:You wouldn't be able to gauge Flacco's development based on his demeanor with the media. He is as even-keeled with us after wins as he is after losses. But the coaches are excited about their quarterback's progress. He continues to grow comfortable with the offensive playbook and his teammates. The biggest sign of his maturity has been his awareness of the necessity of avoiding turnovers. Since throwing three interceptions in his first five games, Flacco has not been intercepted in the last three - which, coincidentally or not, have been Ravens wins.
Nick Scurfield: The Ravens have been running all over their opponents lately. Will Ray Rice get the majority of carries again this Sunday with Willis McGahee banged up?
Edward Lee:The decision to sit McGahee for last Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns was somewhat of a surprise, but McGahee had been limited in practice all week and was listed as questionable for that contest. He was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but upgraded to full participation on Friday. Since he is listed as probable, I would anticipate that McGahee will get a majority of the carries on Sunday. However, Rice and Le'Ron McClain will continue to make substantial contributions as the Ravens like to rotate their three running backs to wear down opposing defenses.
Nick Scurfield: How much of an impact do you expect linebacker Terrell Suggs to have on this game?
Edward Lee:Suggs has enjoyed the kind of season that will likely earn him a sizable contract at season's end. (He is in the middle of a one-year franchise-tag deal and has said that he wants to stay in Baltimore.) He leads the defense in sacks with five and has returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the last three weeks. But what is often overlooked is his role in the rush defense, where he has shed his reputation as just being a pass rusher into becoming a versatile contributor.
Nick Scurfield:Just how good is this Ravens defense? Texans coach Gary Kubiak said that Rex Ryan's bunch looks as good as any Ravens defense he's ever seen.
Edward Lee: The Ravens have long prided themselves on having a stout defense, and this season is no different. No one will confuse this unit with the one that carried the franchise to the Super Bowl after the 2000 season, but this year's defense shares a few similarities. There's the solid, underestimated defensive line, the aggressive linebackers, and the opportunistic defensive backs. As long as the unit can avoid critical injuries (the loss of starting cornerback Chris McAlister on Friday doesn't help), the defense should continue to rank in the top five in the NFL.
Nick Scurfield:The Ravens have the fourth-ranked passing defense, but what is their answer for wide receiver Andre Johnson?
Edward Lee: Many Ravens players and coaches have done nothing but praise Andre Johnson. He is a dangerous receiver who can cut you with short-yardage, move-the-chain type of catches or hurt you as a vertical threat. I wouldn't be surprised if assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Rex Ryan used an alignment where either Suggs or Bart Scottlines up against Johnson with the intention of jamming Johnson at the line of scrimmage. Once Johnson gets past the jam, then it's up to the cornerback to follow Johnson the rest of the way. Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels certainly deserve attention, but Ryan does not want Johnson to be Houston's major spark.
Nick Scurfield: Which team do you think benefits more from the Hurricane-Ike induced postponement of this game from Week 2?
Edward Lee: I think both teams have been affected by the postponement. On the one hand, both sides are dealing with injury concerns that won't improve without extended rest, and that won't occur until after the season. On the flipside, both teams have had more time than initially planned to study the opponent and devise their strategies.
Nick Scurfield: What's your prediction for the score?
Edward Lee: I probably won't make many friends in Houston, but all of the Texans' losses have been at the hands of defenses ranked in the upper half of the NFL. Now, I'm not comparing the Ravens offense to that of the Indianapolis Colts', but the Ravens like to run the ball to set up the pass - much like the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings. With that in mind, I predicted a score of 24-20 in favor of the Ravens in my paper Friday.
To read Lee's comprehensive coverage of the Ravens on the Baltimore Sun website, click ****here***.