The consensus is that this week's Ravens-Texans game is the game of the week and one of the games of the year. Any why not? At 5-1, the teams have the best record in the AFC and this game could go a long way toward determining home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Most pundits -- though not all -- expect the Texans, hammered last week by Green Bay, to rebound over a banged-up Ravens team. Here is how some of the national media see the game:
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Texans 27, Ravens 20
"The Texans’ pride is wounded. The Ravens are simply wounded. If Houston doesn’t get things back on track quickly, a tailspin could be coming. They’ve got the rushing attack to get there — and the Ravens don’t have the defense to stop them."
Elliott Harrison, NFL.com: Texans 27, Ravens 24
While considering a lean towards the road Ravens, my thoughts drifted to their complete inability to stop the run. This is the Ravens' first game without Ray Lewis. But even if Lewis were manning the middle of the defense, Baltimore would have a terrible time stopping Arian Foster and Ben Tate, who should get 40 touches between them Sunday. Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees surely studied last week's tape to figure out how Green Bay smothered Houston's ground attack, but the prediction here is that motivation will outdo preparation, i.e., the ticked-off Texans will rebound in front of the home folks."
Jamison Hensley, ESPN.com: Texans 34, Ravens 23
"I got the sense in talking to some Ravens players after Sunday's game that they're counting the days until next week's bye, which tells me this is a tired group. Then there's the fact that the defense will be without its leader (Ray Lewis) and top cornerback (Lardarius Webb). Another injury that will play a factor is defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who is playing with a sprained knee. The Texans are going to run the ball again and again against a Baltimore defense that has given up 441 yards on the ground the past two games."
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Texans 30, Ravens 27
"Arian Foster will see that the Ravens' run defense struggled last week, and now doesn't have Ray Lewis at the heart of it. Andre Johnson will see that the Ravens don't have their top cover corner, Lardarius Webb. Up front, a banged-up Haloti Ngata faces the Texans' athletic zone-blocking linemen. The Ravens will do their best to turn this into a shootout, where Ray Rice's quickness in open field and Joe Flacco's ability to make big passes downfield can give Houston some trouble. But as the Ravens try to pick up the pieces defensively, the Texans are a difficult first draw on the road."
Peter King, SI.com: Ravens 33, Texans 27
"Game of the weekend. Maybe the game of the year. No Ray Lewis, no Lardarius Webb, only 70 percent of Haloti Ngata. Which means the Texans are going to score enough points to win. But watch Joe Flacco in this game. I think he'll be on fire, especially with Johnathan Joseph so suspect in the Houston secondary, and especially with Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones burning up said Houston secondary. By the way, this just in: John Harbaugh can coach. He'll go above the .700 winning percentage with a win here; he's 49-21 in his 70 NFL regular season games."
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: Texans 27, Ravens 13
"The Ravens come limping in with defensive injuries, while the Texans are coming off a horrible game against Green Bay. But I think Houston bounces back. The Ravens can't stop the run, and we know what happens when the Texans get that running game going."
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Texans 24, Ravens 14
"The only two teams with winning records in the AFC face off in a game that we might look back on in January as the game that decided home-field advantage in the playoffs. I think the team with home-field advantage takes this one, bouncing back from last week’s ugly loss to the Packers."