The Baltimore Ravens won’t have to pivot their focus away from preparing for a rematch with the Houston Texans. They’ve finally know who their divisional round opponent will be following the Buffalo Bills 31-17 triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers to cap off the AFC portion of Super Wildcard Weekend action.
Saturday, we're back at the Bank pic.twitter.com/Yy7TOLdBhZ— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 16, 2024
As the No. 1 seed, the Ravens knew that they’d be hosting the lowest remaining seed at home in the confines of M&T Bank Stadium. However, the date and opponent were to be determined until Monday when the rescheduled matchup between the second-seeded Bills and the seventh-seeded Steelers concluded.
The Ravens’ quest to claim the third Super Bowl title in franchise history will take place in the same venue and against the same opponent that they opened the regular season with. They will host the No. 4-seeded Texans on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. with the game being simulcasted on ESPN and ABC.
In Week 1, the Ravens defeated the young upstart Texans 25-9 but the game was much more competitive than their double-digit final margin of victory suggests. After that game, Head Coach John Harbaugh called Houston a “good, young football team” and proclaimed that they’d “win a lot of football games this year.”
John Harbaugh said this the day after the Ravens beat the Texans in Week 1, 25-9:— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) January 7, 2024
"I’ve said this before about certain teams early in the season – ‘They're going to win a lot of football games this year.’ Mark it down. You’ll see. That’s a good, young football team."
Not only did the Texans prove him right by winning more games than their previous two season combined and claiming the AFC South crown for the first time in 2019, they’re coming off their most impressive win of the season by far. They kicked off Super Wildcard Weekend with a powerful show of force that resulted in a 45-14 blowout of the fifth-seeded Cleveland Browns in a game where they dominated in every facet.
“They are 17 games different. I’d say [it’s] coaching [and] experience – all the things that a good team does that continues to improve throughout the season. They’ve done a really good job of that,” Harbaugh said Monday. “Obviously, they’re very well-coached. They have really good young players [and] some veteran players as well. They’ve continued to improve throughout.”
Harbaugh also told reporters in a press conference that the coaching staff had already been locked in on preparing to face the Texans a second time after they officially advanced Saturday night. Had the Steelers managed to pull off the upset over the Bills, they would’ve pivoted to getting ready for a third matchup with their AFC North rivals.
Since their Week 1 clash, the Ravens and Texans have come a long way in their growth and maturation into top-contending teams who have had to overcome adversity and look as dangerous as any team in the league. They are both led by dynamic young franchise quarterbacks who have been the biggest catalysts to their respective team’s success. In Baltimore, Lamar Jackson earned his second career All-Pro honors, and third Pro Bowl honors, and is in line to be named league MVP for the second time. Meanwhile, in Houston, first-year pro CJ Stroud has rejuvenated not just the organization but the entire fan base and community with his sensational Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign.
“We’re excited to be in this situation, [and] we’re fired up to have an opportunity to play in the Divisional round of the playoffs – that’s deep in the playoffs, as we see it. We’re hoping to do the best we can, put our best foot forward [and] play our best football game of the season. Really, that’s all that’s on our minds.”
The last time these two teams met in the postseason was in the 2011 Divisional round in Charm City and the Ravens defeated the Texans 20-13. The only two players that played in that game who will be taking the field on Saturday are a pair of 14-year veterans for the Texans in defensive back Kareem Jackson and long snapper Jon Weeks.