The Houston Texans put together about as good of a game as they could have asked for in their first ever postseason appearance last week against the Cincinnati Bengals. They’ll need that and probably a ton more if they want to win their first ever road playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional round of the postseason.
M&T Bank Stadium will be the site of Sunday afternoon’s game, which will kick off at 1:00 (ET). Live television coverage is set for CBS.
The Texans (11-6 SU, 10-5-2 ATS) came up with a 31-10 victory last Saturday in front of a Reliant Stadium record 71,725 fans who were attending their first NFL playoff tilt since 1993. It wasn’t the prettiest game in the world, but it was one in which the Texans did what they had to do to win. The defense scored a TD, the offense had the one long pass play that resulted in an Andre Johnson touchdown, and Arian Foster got the job done on the ground.
The defense did the rest. Cincinnati didn’t score in the final 37 minutes of the game, and only got into the Houston red zone once in that stretch. The Texans scored the final 24 points.
This ‘D’ is clearly the best in Texans history, as the unit ranked in the Top 5 in the game in scoring (17.4 PPG) and total yards allowed (285.7 YPG). Bringing in Wade Phillips has made all the difference, and it is remarkable how much better this unit is despite its best player, Mario Williams, not playing since the beginning of October.
Joe Flacco earned the moniker “Joe Cool” for the way that was able to go on the road and win playoff games. For the first time in his career though, the Ravens (12-4 SU, 8-7-1 ATS) are going to be playing a home game in the postseason.
Flacco’s offense wasn’t all that great this year, ranking No. 15 in the league at 338.7 YPG, but he was able to win the games that counted most. Baltimore won six games against teams that made the playoffs, more than any other team. To put that in perspective, the New England Patriots, the No. 1 seed in the AFC, only played against three playoff teams.
Ray Rice is going to be the man of the hour for the Ravens. He has scored at least one TD in three of his last four playoff games, and averaged 112.3 YPG between rushing and receiving since taking over as the starting running back in 2009 in the postseason.
The Baltimore defense also ranked in the Top 5 in the league in every major category this year, and with men like Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs out there, Houston has plenty of reason to be concerned.
Earlier this year, the Ravens pummeled the Texans in this stadium, 29-14. Flacco threw for 305 yards, and Rice had a total of 161 yards. Houston didn’t have Johnson for that game, but did have Matt Schaub at quarterback. He only threw for 220 yards and a TD in the game, and you can bet that it is going to be a significantly tougher task for rookie TJ Yates, who is only starting in his sixth NFL game and his second in the postseason.
The Texans and Ravens have met five times since Houston came into existence. Baltimore holds a 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS edge in this series. Three of the five games had final margins of victory of six points or fewer though, so there is hope for the Texans to at least compete in this game.
The Texans opened up as 7½-point underdogs on Saturday as soon as their Wild Card game went final, but that spread quickly jumped up to eight in Las Vegas and as many as nine at some spots offshorenine. The total opened at 38 but is sitting at 37½ early Monday morning.
The early weather forecast is calling for a cold, but otherwise relatively nice day on Sunday. Temperatures are expected to top out in the mid-30s, but there is no chance for rain or snow in the forecast.