Much of the AFC playoff coverage has been focused on Tim Tebow and the Broncos, but there is another game being played on Sunday that should be great to watch.
The Houston Texans, who are now undefeated in the playoffs as a franchise, are heading into Baltimore to take on the Ravens. They already faced each other this season, in a game which the Ravens won by a score of 29-14. It seems like a lopsided win, but five field goals by Billy Cundiff turned out to be the difference, in an otherwise hard-fought game.
The T.J. Yates-led Texans won in impressive fashion last week, with a 31-10 win over the Bengals. Yates went 11-20 with 159 yards and a perfect touchdown pass to Andre Johnson in the third quarter. Arian Foster added 153 yards on the ground for two touchdowns, one of which was a 42-yard run down the sideline to seal the win.
The offense was great, but the defense was even better. They forced three Andy Dalton interceptions, with the most notable being intercepted by J.J. Watt. At the end of the first half, Dalton was trying to get the Bengals in position to get some points before the break. He dropped back to pass, and threw the ball right into the hands of Watt who returned it for 29 yards and a touchdown. This was a turning point in the game, as the touchdown made it 17-10, and the Texans never looked back.
The key for the Texans defense against the Ravens will be to shut down the run early. Ray Rice ran for 101 yards in the first meeting, which exceeds the average amount allowed by the Texans’ 2nd-ranked rush defense by five yards. Shutting it down early will force Joe Flacco to throw the ball, and Houston will have a better chance of forcing mistakes. Flacco had one interception in the first meeting, and if the Texans keep up the pressure they showed last week, he could throw several more.
The Texans will take a healthy offense into Baltimore, with Andre Johnson and Arian Foster being at full strength. They were injured throughout the year, and Johnson missed the first meeting between the teams. Their presence takes a ton of pressure off of Yates, who will be pressured by the Ravens defense all game.
The Ravens have their first home playoff game with Joe Flacco as quarterback, which will only help his production. He has already won his playoff opener in the past three seasons, and he wants to be recognized as one of the better quarterbacks in the league. Until he reaches the Super Bowl, that will not happen.
If the Ravens win this game, it will be won by their defense. They have the third ranked defense in the NFL, right behind the Texans who are second. Their main focus will be to limit the production of Arian Foster. They held him to 49 yards on 15 carries last game, but that was with Schaub at quarterback. Now that Yates is back there, the Texans will want to run the ball even more.
Pressuring Yates is the second key for the Ravens’ defense. He is inexperienced, even though he looked very composed last week. The difference is that this game will be in Baltimore, where the Ravens are 8-0 this season. They may have trouble if they have to go on the road next week, if they win, but it is tough to doubt them at home.
Ravens-Texans Prediction: Ravens 24 | Texans 23
Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
- Texans-Ravens Date, Time, and TV: Sunday, January 15th at 1:00 ET on CBS
- Texans-Ravens Announcers: Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf
- Texans-Ravens Point Spread: Ravens -9
- Texans-Ravens Over-Under: 35.5