TEM’s Divisional Playoff Weekend Preview: Houston Texans vs Baltimore Ravens
The Texans made the playoffs for the first time. They also won their first playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals last week. This weekend, they try to make another first happen as the Texans head to Baltimore to play the Ravens for the right to go to the AFC Championship.
QB TJ Yates has been a cool customer in the pocket. He has made the throws when he needed to, but the biggest weapon on this team is RB Arian Foster. Foster was a man amongst boys last week as he shredded the Bengals defense. For the Texans to be successful against the Ravens, Foster must come up big again. The Ravens will more than likely crowd the line of scrimmage with S Bernard Pollard, who’s like a linebacker playing safety, to help slow Foster down. LB Ray Lewis and defensive lineman Haloti Ngata will play a huge roll in stopping the run as well. If the Ravens are successful in stopping the run, then all the pressure falls on Yates and that will not be good, especially with S Ed Reed lurking in the shadows. But even with Reed lurking, I expect Texans WR Andre Johnson to make some plays because he does have the advantage against the Ravens CB’s. The question is can he make enough?
QB Joe Flacco has been ridiculed for everything from his performances this season to his mustache. Well, one thing you cannot ridicule Flacco for is his performance in the post-season. Flacco just seems to come up strong in post-season play. In this game, he will be asked to make some plays in the passing game due to the Texans being so stout against the run. Now even with the Texans stuffing the run, that doesn’t mean RB Ray Rice doesn’t get his touches. Trends are meant to be broken sometimes and the Ravens are a better offensive team when Rice is involved. He must get 20+ touches this game. Also, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron must be stubborn with calling running plays to help his quarterback settle in and be successful. If Cameron is stubborn with the run, I expect WRs Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin to make some big plays due to the run setting up the pass. Also expect the Ravens’ TEs (Ed Dickson and Dennis Pita) to also factor in. Jonathan Joseph and the Houston secondary will be tested this game more than against the Bengals. Another factor in this game is for the Ravens to get a handle on LB Brian Cushing. If Cushing is allowed to be his normal, game-changing self, then that could be serious issues for the Ravens.
As for how the game will go, I expect the Ravens to come out with a lot of energy. If the Texans can withstand that initial surge, then I think this game is a close game. If not, then this game could get ugly really quick. I think the Texans hang around for a little while, but with the run taken away from them, the Ravens eventually take over the game.
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 30, Houston Texans 13