Divisional Round: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens

Divisional Round: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens

Then there were EIGHT! It’s Divisional Round Weekend in the NFL, and if you’re not giddy about the Super Bowl in LESS THAN A MONTH then you’re not a true football fan. Or maybe you’re a Cowboys fan. Either way. The overrated Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys are both OUT. The “hot teams”; Cleveland Browns, and Los Angeles Rams are also OUT! The Philadelphia Eagles continued to implode in fabulous glory, and the other team…who was…OH, the Pittsburgh Steelers! Yeah, they should have never been there. So, WHO’S IN?! For starters, it’s the Houston Texans at the Baltimore Ravens in the first Divisional Round game of the weekend. Let’s take a downfield read and see what we can look forward to!

Houston Texans (11-7):

I’m going to be honest with you, (and for those of you who have read my previous articles already know) I did NOT think that the Texans would make it to this point. In preseason I thought that they would finish in third in the AFC South with a record somewhere around 5-12. When they were 4-5 halfway through the season, I thought that they were better than I gave them credit for, but that was about it. Towards the end of the season, I thought they wouldn’t make the playoffs unless they were a #7 Wild Card Team. Then they WIN the division by beating the Indianapolis Colts in Week 18, and host the red-hot Cleveland Browns who had a better record, better defense, etc… The Texans have proven me wrong this year except for a few things. First, I KNEW that Quarterback CJ Stroud would be the best QB in the draft, and it’s not even close. Second, I KNEW that Defensive End Will Anderson Jr would start his path to being one of the best DE’s in the game (another great move in the draft). Third, I KNEW that DeMeco Ryans would be a fantastic Head Couch. This organization KNOWS what it’s doing, and they are going to be a force to be reckoned with for a long, long time.

All of that being said, I think they have a little ways to go before beating the Baltimore Ravens this weekend. Forget about Week One when the Ravens beat the Texans in Baltimore 25-9. They are two completely different teams from the beginning of September. The Texans are BETTER than that. Unfortunately, so are the Ravens. CJ Stroud is a GREAT rookie QB, and the pressure doesn’t seem to even be there for him. Stroud is sixth in Passer Rating (100.8), and eighth in passing yards (4,108) and in fewest QB sacks (38). But did you know that he’s 31st in pass completion? Who is Stroud throwing to NOW? Tank Dell and Noah Brown are on the IR. Robert Woods and John Metchie III are both listed as Questionable. Combined they only have 56 receptions for 584 yards and one TD. Going up against a Ravens defense that allows only 192 passing yards per game (6), that’s not a good outlook.

Texans Wide Receiver, Nico Collins, who finished the regular season with 80 receptions (23) for 1,297 yards (8) for an average of 16.2 yards per reception (7) and eight TDs (T8) led the team in their Wild Card victory with six receptions for 96 yards and a score. Nobody else had more than three receptions. Tight End Dalton Shultz, who has been an above average TE in the regular season, (59 receptions for 635 yards and five TDs) had only one reception for 37 yards, albeit for a TD. Running Back Devin Singletary has been…average at best this season. Singletary has racked up 898 yards (21) for 4.2 yards per carry, 52.8 yards per game, and only four TDs (T35). This kind of running game is NOT going to help you hold onto a lead.

Houston, we have a problem on defense! While the Texans only give up 96.5 rushing yards per game (6), their pass defense needs help. They give up 234 passing yards per game (23), while opposing QBs complete 67.6% of their throws (29). Ravens Quarterback, Lamar Jackson completes 67.2% of his passes this season, which is tied with Patrick Mahomes at 11th. What’s worse is that the Houston defense is severely banged up. It might be easier to list all the HEALTHY Texans defenders, but here are the STARTERS who are listed as Questionable for Saturday’s game: DE Will Anderson Jr, DE Jonathan Greenard (12.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss), DT Sheldon Rankins, DT Maliek Collins, LB Denzel Perryman, and LB Blake Cashman.

Baltimore Ravens (13-4):

The Ravens are another team that overachieved this season. If you thought that they were going to finish 13-4, winning the AFC North AND taking the #1 seed in the playoffs, they you are either a Ravens fan, or a liar! I AM a Ravens fan and I thought they would finish 11-6, coming in second behind the Cincinnati Bengals and taking the #5 spot in the playoffs. The Ravens have been overpowering even the BEST teams in the league this season. They’ve beaten the Texans, the Detroit Lions, the LA Rams, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Miami Dolphins… The only playoff teams to have beaten the Ravens this year? The Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. If you take out the last game of the season when Baltimore had mostly back-ups in the game against the Steelers (and barely lost 17-10), then the Ravens have reeled off six in a row at the end of the season.

Quarterback, Lamar Jackson. Two-time MVP QB Lamar Jackson? Well, I guess we’ll find out. Jackson got paid in this offseason after being placed under the Franchise Tag, and it looked like nobody else in the league wanted him! How are you feeling about that now, Atlanta Falcons? Washington Commanders? New England Patriots? It looks like under new Offensive Coordinator, Todd Monken (who may get a Head Coach position next year), Jackson has picked up his passing game. Not only does he have 821 rushing yards (22nd in the NFL), but he has 3,678 passing yards (15) with a Passer Rating of 102.7 (4) and QBR of 64.6 (4). The Ravens are first in rushing yards per game, fourth in points per game, and sixth in total yards per game. Did you think it was all just their defense?

Running Back Gus Edwards leads this bruised but not broken backfield (with J.K. Dobbins and Keaton Mitchell in the IR) with 810 rushing yards (24) and 13 TDs (tied for fifth with David Montgomery). Don’t be surprised to see a healthy dose of Justice Hill, Melvin Gordon III and (now) Dalvin Cook! There are no issues with this backfield being able to run the game out. Rookie Wide Receiver Zay Flowers leads the flock with 77 receptions (28), 858 receiving yards (39) and five TDs (T35). Even though Tight End, Mark Andrews only played in the first ten games, his 45 receptions are second on the team with 544 yards and six touchdowns. Andrews may return for this game as well. Odell Beckham Jr has played a terrific veteran role for this squad, catching 35 passes for 565 yards for an average of 16.1 yards per reception, which is eighth in the NFL.

Not only have the Ravens scored the fourth most amount of points this season, but their defense has limited their opponents to a league-best, 16.5 points per game. They’re also sixth for the least yards allowed per game (301.5) and first in sacks (60). Leading Baltimore is Defensive Tackle, Justin Madubuike with 13 sacks (9), followed by Jadeveon Clowney (9.5) and Kyle Van Noy (9). Safety, Kyle Hamilton even has three sacks to go along with his four interceptions (T7) and 13 passes defended (T16). I haven’t even mention the best linebacker duo in the NFL; Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen! This defense is also tied for number one in Takeaways (31). The Ravens have 18 INTs (T3), and 13 fumble recoveries (T2), with a turnover differential of +12 (1). They are the first defense ever to lead the NFL in least amount of scoring, most takeaways and most sacks.


CJ Stroud will likely win Offensive Rookie of the Year. DeMeco Ryans will likely win AFC Coach of the Year. Lamar Jackson will likely win MVP. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…say it with me!! DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS! With the best defense in the league, and a Top 5 offense, this game is the Ravens to LOSE. Yes, Baltimore has lost the last two home playoff games that they’ve hosted. Yes, Lamar is 1-3 in the playoffs. HOWEVER…this is all RECENT history that most of the team has not forgotten. IF they DON’T take the Texans for granted, AND they get out on top first, they can put too much pressure on this young Houston team and run away with it…literally. Getting out to a fast lead is going to be important though. If they let the Texans hang around, they’ll start to think they should win the game. Houston does NOT make mistakes, only throwing eight picks (T2), and losing six fumbles (T4). They have the LEAST amount of turnovers in the league. IF the Ravens play a clean game with no “bye week rust”, this should be a victory. I’ll take the Ravens, 27-17.


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