M&T Bank Stadium
Of all the ways to win a game, to watch a team win a game, the last-minute kind gives you the biggest payoff. That miserable feeling of defeat flips to jubilation, a little taste of the bipolar in a few seconds. The Houston Texans have done it twice already this season, and we're only two games in.
Maybe it's momentum. That explanation fits nicely into a take, a hot one. And maybe there is some psychological benefit to that. I don't know. I'm not qualified to make those kind of judgements. I'd ask my own psychoanalyst, but you get charged a full hour for a question like that. We can look at the facts.
The Texans turned the ball over twice last week against the Titans, giving them a -2 differential for the game. That's not typically a recipe for success. Arian Foster is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. They have the second-worst special teams play in the NFL right now, according to Football Outsiders' most recent DVOA numbers. Worse yet, the defense is allowing an average of 26 points per game. It was 20.7 points per game last year
The Baltimore Ravens feel a little off too. Super Bowl hangovers, like momentum, are another pop-psychology favorite. Unlike momentum, the numbers tend to back that one up. That's the price of parity.
Salary caps make it harder to keep a full house of core players. You have to pick and choose, usually starting with the quarterback. The Ravens parted ways with Anquan Boldin, Ed Reed, Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe. Ray Lewis left to make Under Armour commercials. The defense reloaded, bringing in guys like Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty.
Injuries have also taken a toll. Losing tight end Dennis Pitta left the offense thin on pass catchers. The sight of Ray Rice lying on the field with trainers hovering overhead hinted at complete disaster.
But it's still early in the season. That fact can be easily verified. Both of these teams have time on their side, especially in an AFC filled with worn-down speed bumps. This might not be the last time they play each other.
Numbers to Know
by Mark Sandritter
That's the difference in yards per play Houston averages when Ben Tate is on the field this season compared to Arian Foster. Houston averages 7.7 yards per rush when Tate is in the game compared to 3.6 when Foster is in. Matt Schaub is also more effective with Tate on the field, averaging 7.2 yards per pass compared to 5.8.
The number of kickoff returns Baltimore has in two games. Opponents have kicked off to Baltimore 11 times and all 11 have gone for touchbacks.
That's the difference in rushing yards per game between the losing team and the winning team in the six games between Baltimore and Houston. A strong running game is often considered a key to success in the NFL, but in this head-to-head matchup the losing team averages 144.1 rushing yards per game compared to the winning team's 101.5 yards per game average. So much for salting away the game on the ground.
Cast of Characters
There's hope kids. First, have a good arm. Second, be constantly embroiled in a needless debate about being "elite." Then, win a Super Bowl. From there it's a $120 million contract extension and all the McDonald's you can eat.
Baltimore landed this year's free agent prize because of a fax machine error. The NFL will now be upgrading to Windows Me just in time for the 2014 season.
Television's favorite new guest star wants to start a new club this season, one where members have to have 20 sacks, 20 tackles for a loss and 20 batted passes. His 15 batted passes in 2012 were nearly unheard of for a defensive lineman. He's got some work to do.
Most players fill their Twitter timeline with inspirational cliches. Not Foster. His tweets touched on everything from the First Amendment to asking for help with his cable box. And then suddenly he said goodbye to microblogging in March, gone too soon.
by Robert Wheel
Baltimore gets a bum rap because a) The Wire and b) what you see when you pass through the city on Amtrak. Well a) Unless you're Jason Whitlock you know that The Wire is not a documentary and b) of course the city's going to put its rough edges along the train tracks. John Waters does a better job of capturing the city's essence than David Simon, and all the nice houses are in the north of town, away from the tracks.
Baltimore has its problems like any other city; mock it at your own risk lest you seem like a hypocrite. Of course, on gameday the city does change because it gets filled with purple camo-clad fans from Essex who had Ravens silverware in their wedding registries. The fanbase leads the league in purchases of tacky crap.