Our weekly look at the Ravens' matchup from a fantasy football perspective. Baltimore rebounds last week after that opening debacle in Denver, but loses Ray Rice (at least for the moment) in the process. Bernard Pierce, let's do this...
Torrey Smith - Houston has allowed six touchdown passes in two weeks, but opponents are not completing a high percentage of passes. The Ravens did an effective job of targeting Smith in Week 2 against Cleveland with Jacoby Jones sidelined and despite Joe Haden's coverage. With his game-breaking speed, Smith is a WR2/3 most weeks including this one against a secondary showing some cracks, though the possible return of Ed Reed (to the field, not to Baltimore) would help.
Marlon Brown - Two weeks, two touchdowns for the undrafted rookie with four receptions and six targets in each contest. Actually could have had another score last week, but couldn't haul in a deep pass in the end zone. Worth noting Brown has three less targets than Brandon Stokley. His scoring potential keeps him in the fantasy WR3 mix.
Dallas Clark/Ed Dickson - From Rotoworld's Evan Silva: "Clark and Dickson are ineffective real-life and fantasy players. Clark tallied 37.5% of the snaps in Week 2 and was a non-factor after an early game shot to the head. He finished with eight yards." Yeah, sounds about right.
Ray Rice - Sure, Rice's "doubtful" tag means he's not helping his fantasy owners this week, but let's look at the bright side: When he hit the ground last week against the Browns without any contact, the idea of Rice missing much, much more than one week crossed everyone's mind. For those that handcuffed Bernard Pierce to Rice, one week off so his hip is good going forward isn't a bad tradeoff. For those without Pierce, time to look elsewhere* and time permitting, ponder why Pierce isn't on your roster in the first place.
*Possible "elsewhere" suggestions from the backbench or free agent pool include Bilal Powell (Jets), Jason Snelling (Falcons), Andre Ellington (Cardinals) or Marcel Reece (Raiders) in PPR formats.
Bernard Pierce - No Rice means the second-year back is poised for his first NFL start. Even though the matchup is no gem, Pierce is an obvious top-20 fantasy RB play this week. There is the Ravens commitment to the ground game and the multitude of running back issues elsewhere in the NFL.
Joe Flacco - In four career games against Houston, Flacco has thrown five touchdowns, three interceptions, completed 59.1 percent of his passes while averaging 218 yards. Through two games this season, the Texans rank third in passing defense (171.5 yards), but have allowed six touchdown passes (Philip Rivers had four in the opener but with minimal yards). In other words, look for another decent but not spectacular statistical game out of Cool Joe.
The defense and the kicker
The Ravens, a top-10 fantasy defense this week, racked up five sacks against the Browns. Houston has allowed four in two games. Only a 54 percent passes in four career games against Baltimore, Matt Schaub has thrown three interceptions this season. As for Justin Tucker, obviously his two misses last week were not helpful, but this game screams 2-4 field goal opportunities.
On the other side...
Andre Johnson (concussion) will play against the Ravens, but the Texans learned last week that they have another go-to target. Rookie receiver DeAndre Hopkins finished with seven receptions for 117 yards against the Titans including the game-winning touchdown catch in overtime coming with Johnson out. Baltimore's second corner slot remains uncertain which gives Hopkins owners hope, but since Houston remains a run-heavy team with Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the Clemson product's weekly production will prove random. Consider Hopkins a possible WR3 play this week, just ahead of Marlon Brown.