Well, the scenario most Ravens fans were hoping for is half way to fruition after the 31-10 beat-down the Houston Texans handed the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday. With the win the Texans guarantee they will head to Baltimore next weekend because they are the highest seed in the wild card round.
Now, many Ravens fans will find themselves rooting for the hated Pittsburgh Steelers tomorrow against the Denver Broncos in hopes that they can somehow knock off New England as well and lock up an opportunity for Baltimore to host the AFC championship game. That is if Baltimore is able to handle the hard running team from Texas. Don't want to get too ahead of ourselves here. I'm sure the Ravens are ready to take on whoever, wherever, whenever but it would be great for this team and this city to have another home playoff game.
After watching the Texans play some very inspired football yesterday in the teams very first playoff experience it is very apparent that even though they are playing with their third string quarterback, this team has no plans of going quietly into the night. Carried by a dominant defense and the legs of all-pro running back Arian Foster the Texans look very capable on both sides of the ball.
New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has turned the Texans defense into a power house this season and stopping the run is the first thing he preached. How dominant was the defense against Cincinnati? Lets take a look.
In their first ever playoff game they held the Bengals to 76 yards rushing on 19 attempts as a team. They kept rookie sensation A.J. Green to five catches for 47 yards even though Green was targeted 12 times. The addition of Jonathan Joseph was a huge upgrade in the secondary this year as he is headed to the pro-bowl as a starter. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was held to 51.4 quarterback rating. Although Dalton threw for a respectable 257 yards on the Texans, he had no touchdowns and three interceptions.The revamped secondary also had nine passes defended in the game.
Houston's defensive line was dominant once again as they sacked Dalton four times and had five quarterback hits. Rookie defensive end J.J. Watt had an amazing interception for a touchdown that really turned things on for his team. Watt was every where and proved himself worthy of the high first round draft pick the team spent on him.
On offense it is all about the run game for Houston. Last years rushing champion Arian Foster carried the ball 24 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns. He showed great patience and a strong burst in his runs. foster looked far more confident than he did earlier in the season against the Ravens when they held him to under 50 yards in Baltimore.
Andre Johnson is back and looks healthy. He led all receivers with five catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. Johnson had 40 yard touchdown on a blown coverage by Adam (pacman) Jones. He looked healthy and could present problems for the Ravens if the pass rush is not hitting home next week.
Rookie quarterback T.J Yates had a fairly pedestrian day passing but he didn't make any mistakes and got the ball to his play-makers when he needed to. Yates is surrounded by a ton of talent and can be an effective quarterback if he does not turn the ball over. He was 11 for 20 for 159 yards and a touchdown for a rating of 97.9.
If those numbers look a bit familiar it is because the Texans use Yates much like the Ravens do Flacco. They rely on the over all talent of the team and use their quarterback to effectively distribute the ball with out turning it over and with out putting too much of the game in his hands. The Texans may actually play better as a unit when they play this way. They always seemed to want to be too involved in the passing game with Matt Shaub at quarterback. Houston is a run first, defensive team much like the Ravens and they may have found their true identity with Yates at the helm.
Hopefully the experience of Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense will shine through and Baltimore will stay strong at home. The Ravens are extremely hard to beat at home and I don't think the Texans are going to be the team to do it.
With out a doubt this will be a hard hitting, AFC North style game and a great start to the post season in Baltimore! Playoff week is a day away, it's time to paint the town purple with Raven pride!