All the attention this week in the AFC seemed to be focused on Tim Tebow and the Broncos and the big bad Patriots. Now that we know the Pats are a game away from the Super Bowl, we turn our attention to the “other” two teams remaining in the AFC.
Sunday in Baltimore the Ravens, the AFC North champs, will host the Houston Texans, the AFC South champs, for the right to head to New England next Sunday afternoon to play the Pats for the right to go to Super Bowl XLVI.
The Ravens won their first AFC North crown since 2006, and a lot of it is due to the fact they went undefeated at home for the first time in team history.
They are simply a better and different team at home, and seem to play with a lot more confidence and urgency, which is not good news for Texans rookie QB T.J. Yates and the team.
Houston already knows first hand how hard it is to win in Baltimore, as they lost to the Ravens 29-14 on October 16th. That was with starting QB Matt Schaub before he was put on the shelf for the season with an injury.
Now it’s up to Yates, who played well enough last week to help the team overcome the Cincinnati Bengals at home 31-10. The Texans defense, which is one of the best in the league, did their part, as they stopped Andy Dalton and the Bengals, and J.J. Watt picked off a pass and took it for six to give Houston the lead right before half.
The Ravens haven’t hosted a playoff game since falling 15-6 to Indianapolis in the divisional round after the 2006 season, and their only previous postseason victory at home was a 21-3 wild-card win over Denver on December 31st, 2000. That was the season they won the Super Bowl.
Baltimore at home has won 10 in a row while outscoring opponents by an average of 11.2 points. Their defense has allowed 15.0 points per game in that span – only two visitors this season scored more than 17.
It all adds up to what could be a defensive brawl between these two very solid defensive clubs. Houston will try to make Joe Flacco make bad decisions and make mistakes, while the Ravens will look to punish Yates and the Texans offense.
Baltimore led the AFC this season with 48 sacks, which means it will be on Yates to try and make quick decisions and not hold on to the ball. It will also put pressure on RB Arian Foster to help him out, as without a decent run game, the Texans won’t have much of a shot.
Foster was held to 49 yards on 15 attempts at Baltimore in the first game between the two clubs.
Baltimore ranked second in the NFL with 92.6 rushing yards allowed per game. The Texans weren’t far behind, surrendering 96.0 per contest, but could have their hands full with Ray Rice.
He gashed them for 161 yards from scrimmage during the last meeting. Rice recorded an NFL-best 2,068 yards from scrimmage this year and ran for 191 in Week 17, but he was limited to 89 yards on 29 carries in two playoff games last season.
The winner of the this game will be the team that runs the ball better, and the club that makes less mistakes on offense. The Ravens are perfect at home this year, and that trend will continue with a playoff win over the Texans.
Baltimore 16 Houston 7