The Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans saw each other earlier this season in a Week 1 showdown. Both games will be played at M&T Bank Stadium, but the teams will look very different now in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.
Let’s start with some experience. For the Texans, it was the first NFL game for rookie first-round quarterback C.J. Stroud, pass rusher Will Anderson and Head Coach DeMeco Ryans. For Baltimore, it was the first game for Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken and first-round rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers. Those key pieces of each team have now been through a whole season in their roles.
The Ravens were without cornerback Marlon Humphrey and tight end Mark Andrews in Week 1. Both are dealing with injuries now, and could be limited or miss the playoff game completely, but they have a chance to play after missing the opener.
Baltimore running back J.K. Dobbins scored a touchdown against the Texans in that Week 1 game, but also suffered a season-ending injury and won’t be available for the rematch.
Since the opener, Baltimore signed pass rusher Kyle Van Noy in late September. He went on a tear, posting a career-high nine sacks in 14 games.
In Houston, the Texans are without wide receiver Tank Dell, who had a monster rookie season at wide receiver. He had just three catches for 34 yards in the game against the Ravens, though.
The Texans have also begun to lean more heavily on running back Devin Singletary, who had seven carries to Dameon Pierce’s 11 in Week 1. Since December 3, Pierce hasn’t had double-digit carries while Singletary has nine or more carries in all six games.
Houston scored just nine points on three field goals. It was the only game of the season they were held out of the end zone.
“They’re 17 games different,” said Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh earlier this week. “I’d say coaching and experience, all the things that a good team does that continues to improve throughout the season. ... They’ve continued to improve.”
We’ll see if the Ravens can hold serve or the Texans can flip the script this weekend.