Texans vs. Ravens 2013 game preview: Can Baltimore hold court at home?

The Ravens will host the Texans on Sunday in a battle of 2012 playoff teams.

Although they've both been consistent playoff contenders in recent seasons, the Texans and Ravens have a few issues to work out if they are going to be in the mix in January this season. The teams will have the opportunity to improve this week when they square off in Baltimore.

The Ravens notched their first win of the season last week, although it wasn't the prettiest victory. Baltimore won a defensive slugfest, edging the Browns 14-6. Houston opened the season with a pair of wins, but the Texans haven't left much margin for error and needed fourth quarter comebacks to win both games.

A Week 3 game won't make or break a team's playoff chances, but with playoff tiebreakers in mind, it could prove to be an important matchup later in the year.

Meet the Ravens

Baltimore evened its record with the win against Cleveland, and while the defense played better than it did in the season opener, the offensive performance left something to be desired. Baltimore typically has one of the better rushing attacks in the league, though that hasn't been the case early this season. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce combined for 93 yards against Cleveland, but averaged 2.9 yards per attempt. Rice missed most of the game and is nursing a hip injury.

After being shredded by Denver in Week 1, the Ravens were better defensively against Cleveland. Still, Baltimore is 26th in the NFL, allowing 319.5 passing yards per game. Houston's Matt Schaub has put up some prolific passing stats during his career and may challenge the Ravens' pass defense.

Meet the Texans

Houston is one of eight undefeated teams remaining, but the Texans' path to 2-0 was slightly different than many. They needed a fourth quarter comeback in Week 1 against San Diego and came back from an eight-point deficit to win in overtime against Tennessee.

The offense has been the strength early on and Houston is fourth in the NFL in yards per game and scoring. It may take a hit this week with wide receiver Andre Johnson and left tackle Duane Brown both uncertain due to injuries.

Defensively, the Texans are allowing the fourth-fewest yards per game but the 23rd most points per game. Some of that has been due to poor field position, with opponents starting drives in Houston territory following turnovers. If the Texans can limit those possessions, the defense could prove to be a tough matchup.

Local Takes: Baltimore

Rice's status is up in the air, but William Stokes of Baltimore Beatdown wrote Pierce should be able to fill in adequately.

While Pierce, who finished with 57 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, wasn't dominant by any means, he still did a good job filling in for the injured Ray Rice. As the game wound down, Pierce helped drain time off the clock and seemed to get better as the game went on. If Rice's strained hip flexor keeps him out next week, it wouldn't be the end of the world because the high-level play of his backup.

Local Takes: Houston

Ed Reed has yet to make his Texans debut, could that change this week? Battle Red Blog thinks Reed will suit up against his former team:

So will Ed Reed play on Sunday? If the game was in, say, Jacksonville, maybe not. But in Baltimore? Where Reed played his entire career before this year? Where Reed is beloved regardless and particularly beloved coming off a Super Bowl win? On the day that the Ravens just so happen to be inducting Ray Lewis into their Ring or Honor?

At the risk of jinxing it, I believe Ed Reed will play football for the Houston Texans on Sunday.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Baltimore Beatdown and Battle Red Blog, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@BMoreBeatdown

@battleredblog

@RavensInsider -- Ravens beat writer

@taniaganguli -- Texans beat writer

Prediction

From the Week 3 picks:

It's tempting to pick the Texans here. A defense headlined by J.J. Watt and Brian Cushingshould have an easy edge against a Ravens offense lacking much firepower. However, left tackle Duane Brown is expected to miss this game with a case of turf toe. That's a real problem against Baltimore's defensive front. Start tallying up the other injured stars -- recently injured I should clarify -- and this looks like a low-scoring defensive battle. You should probably get used to those if you plan on watching many Ravens games this year.

The pick: Baltimore

Odds

Houston opened as a 1-point favorite according to OddsShark, despite being on the road.

Next Week

Baltimore will travel to Buffalo for the first of back-to-back road games against AFC East opponents.

Houston will be back at home for a tough test against the Seattle Seahawks.

More from SB Nation NFL:

Week 3 picks: Beware of big spreads

An illustrated guide to playing cornerback

NFL hot seat watch: Ryan loses, Allen wins

Mike Holmgren blasts Trent Richardson trade

Browns trade Trent Richardson to Colts | What it means for Indy | Who wins?

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