In this game-day staple, blogger Matt Vensel makes four sometimes-courageous predictions for the game. All he asks is that you don’t hold it against him whenever those predictions end up being embarrassingly wrong.
A week ago, after the Ravens allowed nearly 500 yards of total offense to the Dallas Cowboys, it didn’t seem like there was a remote possibility that Terrell Suggs would be on the field the next time we saw them. But here we are, after a full week of practice for the linebacker and his activation to the 53-man roster, waiting to see if he will stunningly return from his torn Achilles tendon less than six months after he suffered the injury.
Will he or won’t he play Sunday against the Houston Texans? We won’t know for sure until around lunchtime.
Either way, don’t expect him to be a savior right away. His return would no doubt give the defense a boost, as he has been the tone-setter for the defense the past couple of seasons. But he probably isn’t close to being at full strength, and his presence won’t be able to mask all the shortcomings of a defense that has allowed more than 200 rushing yards in consecutive weeks for the first time in franchise history. They’ve got issues.
So is there going to be a Suggs prediction this week? You betcha. Plus three others. But don’t worry, even though I went 3-for-4 last week, it was probably an anomaly. These predictions are still sure to go wrong.
1. TERRELL SUGGS WON’T SACK THE QUARTERBACK
This isn’t just to cover my backside in case all this Suggs stuff is gamesmanship on the part of the Ravens, and it isn’t completely because Suggs has practiced three times since late April. If Suggs assumes his usual spot to the right of defensive end Haloti Ngata, he will have to get through Texans left tackle Duane Brown to get to Matt Schaub. According to Pro Football Focus, Brown has yet to allow a sack this season and he has only allowed his quarterback to be pressured six times in six games. Beating Brown is a major challenge for healthy pass rushers. Suggs is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but I’m guessing he won’t yet be himself.
2. JIMMY SMITH WILL GET HIS FIRST INTERCEPTION
After the season-ending injury to Lardarius Webb last week, Smith, a first-round pick in 2011, will be thrust into the starting lineup. While he was technically a backup, Smith has actually played more snaps this season than starters such as nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu, inside linebacker Jameel McClain and outside linebacker Albert McClellan. Still, Smith said Wednesday that he expects the Texans to test him. He is just a second-year player after all. I think Smith is right, and there will be some growing pains for him this season. But Smith being tested means there will be opportunities for interceptions. He’ll get his first of the season on Sunday.
3. JOE FLACCO WILL THROW A PAIR OF INTERCEPTIONS
Flacco, who is usually responsible with the football, hasn't thrown two interceptions in a game since the Week 15 loss to the San Diego Chargers last season. He has only thrown two picks in a game twice since the start of the 2011 season, and you have to go back to September 2010 to find a game where he exceeded two interceptions. So why do I think he will throw up a couple of them on Sunday? It’s mostly me blindly chucking darts at a board. But I do expect the Ravens to fall behind in this game, and I can see Flacco throwing more than 40 passes if the Texans, who are tied for ninth in the NFL with seven interceptions, open up a big lead.
4. ARIAN FOSTER DOUBLES RAY RICE’S RUSHING OUTPUT
On Sunday, two of the NFL’s best running backs will be on the field, but if the Texans, who rank seventh in the league in rush defense, have their way, only one of them will be getting handoffs in the second half of the game. The Texans are built to get a lead and play keep-away with the football, and if the Ravens get off to another one of their slow starts on the road, Rice might not get as many carries as most fans would like. Meanwhile, the Texans will keep feeding the ball to Foster, who enters the game fourth in the NFL with 561 rushing yards and can really pad those stats if the Ravens haven’t fixed what’s wrong with their run defense.