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This Sunday, there will be a Ring of Honor ceremony inducting recent retiree Ray Lewis.  His number will be retired as well.  Another former great to greet him there will be Jonathan Ogden, who is arguably one of the top three offensive linemen of all time.

Another Ravens great to arrive will be good old Ed Reed.  However, the circumstances for his visit is very opposite.  In the off season, as you all know, he signed with the Houston Texans and will be in white & red for this game against our purple-clad heroes.  Of course, this is all with an assumption that Reed will suit up to play Sunday, as many Ravens players expect.

Whether or not he will be effective against us remains to be seen, as he has not taken the field for the Texans this year while recovering from off season hip surgery.  His abilities have been affected by time but his knowledge of quarterbacks’ tendencies has not diminished.  He may be a big thorn in the Ravens’ paw (or talon) for the passing game.

Which is not to say that quarterbacks can’t study film on defensive tendencies.  As Reed has quite a lot of knowledge of Flacco, as does Flacco have on Reed.  Reed generally has a big advantage over his opponents come playoff time, which coincide with a season’s worth of footage to determine any tells, intricacies, faults, and strengths of the opposing offense.  His record of number of interceptions in the postseason can confirm this.  If you remember, in the January 2007 playoff game against the Colts, Reed picked off Manning two times and would’ve had two additional, if Ray Lewis didn’t head in the same direction and accidentally deny his stats.

However, for each regular season, not every quarterback will perform exactly the same as the year prior.  Along with changes in rosters, offenses (and defenses) can be vastly different in varying areas depending on how the players produce.

The Ravens appear to still be figuring out how to run their offense effectively with all of their new changes.  In week 1, their offense performed very well in the first half but then shut down for most of the 2nd half.  The reverse happened against the Browns last Sunday.  Their defense seemed to click in all phases during that same 2nd half, where they held the Browns to 85 yards total (which is great considering that’s when offenses normally get more desperate to win and thus will take more chances which add up to more yards).

Houston appears much less formidable than last season.  Last year when the Ravens faced them, they were 5-0 and blowing teams out with ease.  So far this year, they had to come from behind to win in the waning moments against San Diego (they came back from 21 points down) and Tennessee.

Before last year, the Ravens had never lost to the Texans, winning all 6 matchups (including playoffs) against them.  This game should be a great indicator in how both teams’ seasons are heading.  This will also provide big tests for our defensive backs and offensive linemen.

The Texans have been extremely lucky with the dominance that wide receiver Andre Johnson has given them in his career.  With the draft selection of WR DeAndre Hopkins, the Texans now have two great receiving options that are hard to defend against.  Also, they have had amazing rushing success out of starter Arian Foster and backup Ben Tate, who may be playing a lot in this game.  The two are also good receiving options in the same mold as Ray Rice is to us.

Their 2012 DPOY J.J. Watt was very disruptive in our matchup last year.  This year, he has only 2 sacks so far (as opposed to 20.5 total last year), but sacks are more of a statistic that comes in spurts rather than an average per each week, similar to interceptions.  It’s the prime time to see if our offensive line (with Oher in the right tackle spot and McKinnie starting on the left) formation can hold the pass rushers off much better.

Last week, the Ravens got the hint in the 2nd half and decided to run the ball a lot more often.  Like I referred to in the previous post, Flacco is one of the best play action passers in the league but, obviously, needs to have a running threat established in order to pass more effectively.  Although the Ravens have not had much success in rushing so far this season, the fact that they’re sticking to the run makes the opposing defense have to account for the running backs which in turn frees up passing lanes for the receivers.

Our undrafted rookie starter Marlon Brown got his second touchdown in as many games.  He is quite a target at 6’5, which is similar to the heights of other great receivers like Randy Moss (who I think is 6’6) and Chad Johnson.  It is great luck that the Ravens were able to sign him after the draft, considering that drafting him would have been an easier route to secure his services.  The Ravens seem to be in a positive trend of evaluating wide receivers, which they were quite bad at for almost the entire franchise’s existence.  With the starting corps of Torrey Smith, Brown, and Brandon Stokely, the offense has begun to develop a winning rhythm.  Jacoby Jones’ eventual return will just add on to our deep threat potency.

Going off topic, the Orioles are still thick in a crowded AL race for the postseason. They’ve taken 2 out of 3 games against the Red Sox and will face the Tampa Bay Rays tonight in a four game series.  So far, the Rays, Orioles, Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians, and Kansas City Royals have all been fighting for one of two wild card spots (the Yankees are still technically in it as well, below all 5 mentioned teams).

Schedule wise, Cleveland is in the best shape out of the 5 to make it to the postseason.  They start off a 3 game series against the Houston Astros, which for a third year in a row has lost at least 100 games and is the worst team in the league.  You can almost spot them the 3 wins there, and maybe 1 or 2 for their following series against the Chicago White Sox who are currently at the bottom of the AL Central standings and third worst team in the MLB.

The Rangers get some Astros on their upcoming schedule as well, but not before facing off with a Royals team attempting to make a run at the playoffs finally after so many losing seasons.  Also, since the O’s and Rays are facing each other for all of these games, either team can make a lot of ground in the wild card race or end up knocking each other out.  Baseball, while a very long sport to go through, can always have surprises with different teams regardless of their records and the many statistics compiled over the season.  That’s one thing you can always count on with baseball: the hyper specific, insanely detailed statistics regarding every single player and game.  Almost every number has at least two decimals.

The Orioles have just 10 games remaining for the regular season.  While it is possible for the team to go 10-0 and finish 91-71, realistically that won’t happen.  Thankfully these remaining teams in the wild card race are facing each other, so you won’t expect any other team to go through an undefeated streak.  After Tampa, the O’s come back home to finish off the regular season in 3 game sets against the Blue Jays & the Red Sox.  Anything can realistically happen in the race and who knows, maybe somehow the Yankees come out strong and make the playoffs yet again.

Our neighbors to the south, the Washington Nationals, have a long shot to make the playoffs but it’s still conceivable.  In all likelihood, the top 3 teams of the NL Central division will go to the playoffs, which is apparently 99% likely.  Washington has but a 1.5% chance (another funny set of specific numbers related to baseball) in becoming a wild card team.

Lucky for them, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, the two teams currently sharing wild card spots and barely behind St. Louis in the NL Central, are playing each other in a 3 game set starting today.  The Nationals are currently 5 games behind Cincinatti for the 2nd spot, whom is the visiting team against the Pirates, and their best chance is if one of these two teams gets swept in the series and really just falls apart in the next 9-10 games.  Also Washington has to be on their game as well if they want a shot at the postseason (thankfully they are facing game 2 in a 4 game set against the Miami Marlins, the 2nd worst team in the MLB).  So really, National fans have to root for two teams: the Nationals, and who ever beats Cincinatti/Pittsburgh.

The Ravens play Sunday (CBS) at 1:00 pm.

Enjoy the weekend and go O’s & Ravens!  Also good luck to the Nationals.


P.S.  While looking for a visual of a talon earlier, it came to me that “Raven Talon” is a pretty sweet name combination, maybe for a band or a person interested in gothic things.