In their first season under a new head coach with a rookie quarterback, the Baltimore Ravens got off to a brilliant start.
Though the Houston Texans entered the year with a more established system in place, their opener couldn't have gone much worse.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Houston -5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Houston -5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Ravens coach John Harbaugh and rookie quarterback Joe Flacco look to build on a win in their respective debuts on Sunday when they visit the Texans, who hope to quickly put their opener behind them.
Baltimore lost nine of its last 10 games in 2007, sparking some major organizational changes. Brian Billick was dismissed as coach, making room for Harbaugh, a lifetime assistant. Flacco, equally inexperienced in his first season out of Delaware, was thrust into the starting lineup because of Steve McNair's retirement, Kyle Boller's season-ending shoulder injury and Troy Smith's tonsil infection.
The Ravens successfully launched their new era last Sunday with a 17-10 win over AFC North rival Cincinnati.
"It's a thrill," Harbaugh said. "I'm appreciative of (owner) Steve Bisciotti, (general manager) Ozzie Newsome and the rest of the Ravens organization for giving a no-name a chance to be a head coach in this league. We have a long way to go, but this is a good start."
Flacco has to agree after his own impressive debut. Operating under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the 18th overall pick in the draft went 15-for-29 for 129 yards and no interceptions. He also had a 38-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, which proved to be the deciding score.
"It's just football. It's a lot of fun, though, just like it's always been," said Flacco, who will retain the starting job for at least one more week. "I think our offense was in control all day. And obviously we had a lot of help from our defense."
That defense, perennially one of the best in the NFL under coordinator Rex Ryan, gave up only eight first downs while holding Cincinnati to 154 total yards - fewest in the NFL in Week 1.
"Two thumbs up to (Ryan) and what they did today," said Bengals receiver Chad Ocho Cinco, who had one catch for 22 yards. "It was unbelievable, and I told him after the game. I don't know what they were playing. That's some playground defense."
That doesn't bode well for a Texans team that struggled offensively in a disheartening loss last week. The 2002 expansion franchise entered 2008 with high hopes in its third year under coach Gary Kubiak and second with Matt Schaub under center. However, Houston got off to an inauspicious start last Sunday with a 38-17 loss at Pittsburgh.
The Texans, who won three of their final four games in 2007 to finished a franchise-best 8-8, totaled 234 yards on offense and committed three turnovers. All of those giveaways were credited to Schaub, who threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and was sacked five times.
"I can't sit here and pinpoint one thing. It was just totally disappointing," Kubiak said Monday. "We didn't do anything to help our defense in the first half and then in the same voice I can say they did nothing to help the offense. We all struggled."
Wide receiver Andre Johnson, who caught 10 passes for 112 yards, was frustrated and said the Texans are a "much better team than what we showed" in the opener. They'll need to be better in order to beat Baltimore's defense.
"It's going to be a big test for us," Johnson said. "We can't hang our heads because of what happened to us this week. I think we'll bounce back well from it."
Houston gained only 75 yards on the ground last week, due in part to an ankle injury suffered by running back Ahman Green in the first half. Though he finished the game, Green is still nursing the injury and will be re-evaluated before Sunday. The Texans worked out running backs Tuesday and could elevate Darius Walker from the practice squad if Green can't play.
"My concern right now is Ahman's ankle," Kubiak said. "If it's going to be a problem, Darius is our first option. You cannot play in this league with two backs or operate with two halfbacks in an NFL game.''
Houston won its final four home games last season en route to a 6-2 record at Reliant Stadium, but has lost both of its previous games against Baltimore. The teams haven't met since Dec. 4, 2005, a 16-15 home victory for the Ravens.
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