|Written by Chris Coleman.
The Houston Texans must feel the slightest bit cursed. After losing their starting quarterback Matt Schaub just over halfway through the season, they bounced back with two wins from rookie quarterback TJ Yates. Then they lost three in a row to end the season. Then they won their first playoff game as a franchise. Now they play the team that has historically given them the most headaches. The Ravens are 5-0 all-time against the Texans.
It’s been a see-saw year for the Texans. But their convincing defeat of the Bengals, a team that twice lost to the Ravens this year, shows that the Texans up may not be ready to go down. Interestingly, it was a loss at Baltimore that changed the tone of the Texans’ season.
After winning three of their first four games, a first in franchise history, the Texans lost two of three. The second and last loss of that three-game stumble was to the Ravens. Following that 29-14 loss, the Texans won seven in a row and their division, before putting it on cruise control to end the season.
Two of the best running defenses will be going up against teams that like to run the ball and not make their quarterbacks do too much. The jury seems out on Joe Flaco still. People in Baltimore love him, but the rest of the league is a little shaky. Flaco has led his team to wild card wins in each of the last three seasons but has been unable to get the Ravens to the AFC Championship.
Yates on the other hand is still an unknown commodity, but he looked sharp in the Texans win last week and seems to have good timing with his receivers and a somewhat healthy Andre Johnson as a weapon.
Eventually Flaco is going to have to prove he can win in the second week of the playoffs. Their will be added pressure this week. The Ravens have not won a playoff game at home in over a decade. The last time they did they won a Super Bowl. With Trent Dilfer. If Flaco can’t do it this year, people may start the, “We won with Trent Dilfer” talk.
Ray Lewis recognizes this may be his team’s last best chance to prove itself worthy of a title.
"We have the team to do it now. We don't have too many more excuses," Lewis said. "Let's go do it right now. Then whatever else comes after that for all of your careers, you go enjoy it, but go win a championship.
Ironically it was the Texans, usually a defensive doormat, that had the best numbers in the league this year. More ironically, it was that same defense that was the cause of the loss in October.
The Texans gave up 16 straight points at the end of the game to lose to the Ravens. In order to stop the Ravens, the Texans will need to key on Ray Rice. The running back had over 160 yards from scrimmage against the Texans in the last meeting. Rice has been unstoppable most of the season, killing the 49ers and Steelers, two vaunted defenses. The Texans will have to prove their regular season’s defensive numbers by slowing down arguably the best in the league.
This may be the weekend Wade Phillips reinforces his image as one of the best defensive coordinators in the game. The Ravens telegraph their offense and having seen them before, Kubiak and Phillips should have the Texans ready for the Ravens. With such a conservative gameplan, the Ravens will not score a lot of points. Meaning one turnover could be a killer. Did we mention Flaco has worse than a 2-1 turnover-to-touchdown ratio in the playoffs since he entered the league?
Last updated on January 13, 2012.