How many times do you expect to hear this phrase muttered before, during and after the game as the Baltimore Ravens get to host their first home playoff game in the John Harbaugh-Joe Flacco-Ray Rice era? The last time the Ravens hosted a home playoff game, they were the #2 seed in the 2006 season, but lost embarrassingly to the Indianapolis Colts 15-6. However, as good of a defense that Baltimore team had, they were still facing Peyton Manning, who always seemed to find a way to out-duel Ray Lewis in their classic chess matches.
Today's game will have a huge drop-off in comparisons between Peyton Manning and the Texans third-string QB, T.J. Yates. Yates has been the topic of enough comparisons this past week here on Baltimore Beatdown and there is no need to even begin to put Manning and Yates side-by-side for any reason. In fact, once this game is over, there will be no need to even think about any future discussions of the merits of Yates to Ravens QB Joe Flacco.
Flacco has started more playoff games than Yates has started games in his NFL career. Joe is no stranger to the post season and after games at the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs, being the home team QB today will be a piece of cake in terms of performing under pressure. In fact, playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the regular season is much more stressing than playing the Texans under one-and-done circumstances.
The Ravens are one of the best home teams in the league and even Dan Dierdorf stated in a recent story that along with the Kansas City Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium, M&T Bank Stadium is the loudest non-dome arena to play in for opposing teams in the league, where he predicts the Ravens will administer a beating to the Texans.
And I couldn't agree more.
Houston fans say that Baltimore's week six 29-14 game was a long time ago and with the subtraction of starter Matt Schaub combined with the addition of Yates and WR Andre Johnson, the Texans are a different team.
And I couldn't agree more.
That's why I don't see this game being any closer today than it was then. I realize that the opposing fans say that RB Arian Foster was returning from a recent injury and was not at full strength. I realize that Andre Johnson missed that game along with quite a few others and I realize that Yates was not at the helm, much less in anyone's mind, including his own teammates and coaching staff.
Of course, odds are that if Schaub's backup, Matt Leinart, had stayed healthy for more than one part of his first start, no one in Baltimore, and perhaps Houston, would even know who T.J. Yates was. However, that is history and Yates has the support of his team and fan-base to the point of blind loyalty making them think that Yates will be able to handle the pressure of the game itself as well as the confusing Ravens defense.
I do not see either of those things happening, which is half of the reasoning behind what I believe will be a resounding Ravens victory and a date with the New England Patriots next Sunday. The other half will be the solid game that Flacco has should at least temporarily shut the traps of all the critics out there.
Expect the Ravens to have a relatively tough time against a solid Texans defense that is built like Baltimore's own. Relentless motors, athletic front seven and an opportunistic secondary mirrors the guys in purple and combined with their great running game, shows why this is a game between two very similar playing styles.
However, the stats do not take into consideration the veteran leadership, playoff experience and most of all, the home-field advantage that the Ravens will enjoy. That should be more than enough to tip the scales heavily in Baltimore's favor. A close game will be broken open in the second half as the Ravens offense begins to take control.
The options that Flacco has in the passing game combined with the elusiveness of RB RayRIce will not be matched by the rookie QB, who will be forced to put it up much more than his or his coaches will want to, and stepping far outside of his comfort zone due to the lack of a running game against this defense, will result in the turning of the tide.
The Ravens offense will wear down the Texans defense with a major victory in the time-of-possession battle, which will be one battle that will win the war. The well-rested and healthy Ravens defense will seem like it has 20 players on the field as they throw an assortment of schemes and blitzes at an over-matched rookie QB who will have no answer to offer his team.
The score may actually be closer than the game plays out to be, but either way, in the end, the hometown team and its fans wil be celebrating another week and looking forward for playing in the AFC Championship Game as the Ravens roll over and through the Texans for the second time this season.