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Mark Zinno: Ravens Reactive - Week 3 Match-Up

5. Houston Texans (2-0)
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

KEY MATCHUP: Ravens DBs against the Texans WRs. The Ravens secondary got torched in week one against the Broncos who are loaded with weapons all over the field. Against the Browns, they got a bit of a reprieve who have less in their arsenal. It's back to an arms race again this week against the Texan who have talent at every offensive position, especially wide receiver. How well can the Ravens cover rookie DeAndre Hopkins? It will be a key on Sunday.

THE RAVENS WIN IF: They have the balance they had last week. Despite the pass happy NFL, the Ravens need to run the ball to be successful. Ray Rice's hip injury could cause him to miss the game. The load will go to Bernard Pierce who had 19 carries last week. Despite only averaging 2.8 yards per carry, Joe Flacco is a much better QB with a consistent running game.

THE TEXANS WIN IF: They get an early lead. The Ravens offense hasn't found itself yet. They haven't had much consistency in pass game and much production in the run game. Ray Rice is a game time decision and if Houston jumps out to an early lead, the Ravens don't play catch-up very well. A two-touchdown lead early by the Texans will force the Ravens to get away from the running game and that was a recipe for disaster.

FANTASY TIP: Start Bernard Pierce. Even if Ray Rice plays, he will be limited because of his hip flexor strain. Bernard Pierce is a big, physical north and south runner who has proven he can handle 20 carries a game. He's also shown some ability to break the big run. And finally, he's a threat to steal goal line carries anyway because of his size. He's a solid start this week.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: A lead in the AFC North. The Ravens chief competition in the division is the Bengals. The Steelers and Browns are a mess and haven't won a game combined. The Bengals will be with the Ravens every step of the way. They also have to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers this week. If the Ravens beat the Texans and the Packers take care of business in Cincy, the Ravens will have an early division lead with a match-up against the Bills next week.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkZinno

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