The Ravens have a new boost of confidence and look to open the NFL regular season on a strong note.

With Lamar Jackson receiving a payday, Todd Monken taking over the offense and a revamped wide receiver room, expectations are high for the Ravens. They added superstar Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie first-round pick Zay Flowers to bolster Jackson’s weapons. They added Jadeveon Clowney just before the preseason finale to boost the pass rush.

This is the first time the Ravens will have Jackson under center in Monken’s new offense in a game setting. We saw samples of Monken’s influence in the preseason but only with second and third stringers — starters and established veterans didn’t play in their three exhibition games.

The Ravens don’t have the strongest test to start the season. They’ll host the Houston Texans, who finished last season with one of the league’s worst records. The Texans will be starting No. 2 overall pick C.J. Stroud under center, with first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans on the sidelines.

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“It’s going to be a challenge for our guys [and] a rookie quarterback,” Ryans told reporters this week. “It’s going to be a tough challenge, but it’s nothing that we’re backing down from or not up to.”

The Texans also drafted two-time Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year Will Anderson Jr. right after Stroud. Houston is rebuilding, and while its secondary isn’t lacking, it’s a sizable gap behind Baltimore in terms of talent and production.

Baltimore has never lost to the Texans at home, holding a 6-0 record that includes a playoff win. The Ravens are 10-2 in the all-time series against Houston.

Here’s what you should know heading into Sunday.

Players to know

C.J. Stroud

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Stroud is making his first start after an impressive career at Ohio State. He’s expected to have growing pains like any rookie quarterback on the road, but the Ravens have a banged-up cornerback room he could expose.

The Texans drafted defensive end Will Anderson Jr. (51) with the No. 3 overall pick after taking quarterback C.J. Stroud second. (Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Will Anderson Jr.

The Texans traded up to take Anderson with the No. 3 pick, and he’s projected to start at defensive end. A lot of attention is centered on Stroud, but Anderson should be watched just as closely.

Zay Flowers

The rookie receiver has gotten a lot of well-deserved praise all summer and throughout Ravens training camp. With Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews dealing with a quad injury, making his status for Sunday unclear, this is a ripe opportunity for Flowers to enter the league with a bang.

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What’s at stake

For the Texans: The stakes aren’t high right now. The Texans aren’t expected to be a competitive team. That said, their top-five draft selections of Stroud and Anderson are huge investments and both of them proving they were worthy is important.

For the Ravens: The Ravens are in the conversation for Super Bowl contention. They can’t afford to be embarrassed by a team like the Texans out of the gate.

What people are saying

“The challenge with Lamar is he’s one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. You talk about the athlete that he is and the plays he’s able to make with his feet, but also Lamar does a good job putting the ball where he wants to put it. He has more targets this year. Their focus and emphasis has been on throwing the ball more, getting him more explosive weapons on the outside, and we’re going to have our hands full with that.” – Ryans, when asked how he’s preparing to contain Jackson.

“Something that’s always intrigued me about him is that he’s a very underrated passer. I think he’s very accurate, especially down the field. Of course his running ability speaks for itself, but I think he’s very smart — he’s smarter than people give him credit for. You see it on tape. ... I’ve been a big fan of his, and I’m excited to line up against him and hopefully get to talk to him after the game. Really, really big fan of his, and I’m excited to see him have a great year.” — Stroud on Jackson, when asked what he admires about his style of play.

“The pundits and prognosticators, to quote Jack Harbaugh, I’m not either one of those. So, I don’t have a prediction in terms of how he’s going to fare. I think he’s going to fare really well, because he’s a really good player, and he works really hard, and guys like that tend to do very well.” — Ravens coach Harbaugh, when asked about Flowers transferring his offseason work to the season.

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By the numbers

Texans (2022)

Offensive DVOA: -24.5% (31st)

Defensive DVOA: 7.8% (28th)

Special teams DVOA: 4.0% (2nd)

Ravens (2022)

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Offensive DVOA: 7.9% (9th)

Defensive DVOA: -9.1% (8th)

Special teams DVOA: 4.0% (3rd)

Weather

The National Weather Service projects a 50% to 80% chance of thunderstorms, followed by showers, in the Baltimore area Sunday. It expects the high to be 85 degrees.

Game Information

Time: 1 p.m.

Where: M&T Bank Stadium

TV: CBS (WJZ-TV) • PARAMOUNT+

Radio: 98 ROCK (97.9 FM) • WBAL 1090 AM (101.5 FM)

aron.yohannes@thebaltimorebanner.com

Aron Yohannes joined The Baltimore Banner in June 2023 as a reporter. He previously reported on trending topics in sports for The Oregonian. He began his career covering the Milwaukee Bucks from 2012-2016 for SB Nation before working for the Seattle Seahawks from 2016-2018. Aron is Eritrean and a native of the north side of Milwaukee.

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