As the Ravens prepare for Sundays game against the Houston Texans my mind wanders back to week one. Remember week one? The Packers and Saints gave us a hell of an opening game, everyone waited with anticipation for the “Dream Team” to take the league by storm, and the Ravens quietly made a statement; thrashing the Pittsburgh Steelers 35-7.
Thinking back on the year is a tough assignment. Every team had it’s up and downs. The Ravens finished 12-4, won the AFC North for the first time since 2006, and will host a playoff game for the first time under Head Coach John Harbaugh; for any other team that’s a great year, for these Ravens it’s not nearly enough.
Terrelle Suggs had an MVP caliber/Defensive MVP type of year, Ray Rice and Torrey Smith injected explosiveness and youth into a normally stagnant offense, and Ray Lewis, “The General”, is ready to lead this team on another playoff run. So, what’s the catch?
The Houston Texans come into Baltimore AFC South Champs for the first time in their history, they’re coming off their first playoff game and win in franchise history, and they’re a sneaky good football team; even with a rookie QB. Arian Foster and Ben Tate compliment each other perfectly in the backfield and they run behind the best offensive line in football.
The Texans D was the most improved defensive unit in the NFL this season, even without All-Pro Mario Williams. They can rush the passer, defend the deep pass, and stop the run; equally strong in all three phases of defense.
Even with the bye-week and home game it’s a trap game for the Ravens. Seeing as though the Ravens have only lost trap games this season, there’s room for concern. The Ravens come into the game division champs and the #2 seed in the AFC. The Texans surprised people this season, but won a weak division. Their time is up. They were a nice story, fighting through adversity all year, but their time is up.
For the Ravens, it’s put up or shut up time. Let’s (finally) see what this team is made of…
3 Things to Watch For:
Joe Cool–I’ve harped on Flacco’s up and down game all year. He actually regressed, at least statistically, this season. He’s got the tools and the running game behind him now, there’s no excuse for a poor performance especially with the home game. As he goes so goes the Ravens chances of winning it all. Keep a close eye on him Sunday.
Ravens Rush D–The Texans are the best running team in the league, the Ravens defense is the 7th best against the run. In their first meeting this season the Ravens shut down the Texans run game en route to a 29-14 victory. They need to do that again, or else.
T.J. Yates vs. The World–More aptly put, it’s Yates vs. the Ravens deadly pass rush and secondary. Yates is the the 3rd string Texans QB. He’s a rookie who needs to rely on the running game to get comfortable. If the Ravens shut down the Texans rush attack, Yates will have to make plays with the likes of Suggs, Lewis, Reed, and Ngata staring him down. How Yates fares will decide this game.
The Ravens beat the Texans earlier this year when both teams were at full strength. Ray Lewis will not settle for anything less than perfection during these playoffs, he’s out for blood and another championship; that’s a scary thought. As worried as I am about Foster and the Texans running game, the Ravens win this game on the strength of their running attack and a few big plays on defense.
Prediction: Ravens 28 – Texans 17
About the Author
Written by Frank Sullivan
Frank is a graduate of Old Dominion University, sports fan, author, and founder of TheBloosh.com. He's been working with prosportsblogging.com since April 2011, and has covered the Chicago Bulls, Baltimore Ravens, Virginia Tech Hokies Football, and the Washington Wizards. Frank can be reached @franksullivan on twitter.