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AFC Divisional Game Breakdown: Texans vs Ravens

Will underdog Texans be up to the challenge against dominant Ravens?

Texans vs Ravens
The start of some possible epic QB duels
Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via Getty Images

While a great deal of football fans will be intrigued by another installment of “Allen vs. Mahomes” when the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs battle this weekend, my eyes will be Elmer GLUED to Stroud v Jackson in the other AFC Divisional matchup. The Houston Texans, fresh off their first postseason win in the “Post Deshaun Watson era”, travel to charm city to take on the number one seeded Baltimore Ravens, fresh off their well-earned 1st round bye. The young, upstart Texans were able to obliterate the Cleveland Browns on Wild Card weekend last Saturday en route to a 45-14 drubbing at home. Now, going on the road to face a stout and aggressive Ravens defense outdoors in the elements, figure to provide quite the daunting task for the C.J. Stroud led Houston offense.

Miami Dolphins v Baltimore Ravens
Is this LJ 8’s time to go all the way?
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Baltimore Ravens are led by their electric QB Lamar Jackson, who in my opinion will deservedly earn his 2nd NFL MVP Award this year and possibly take his ball club to the Super Bowl in February. Oddly enough, though he has many collegiate and professional accolades, Jackson’s so called “monkey on the back” is his 1-3 playoff record highlighted with some pretty remedial individual performances on his behalf. This year has looked and seemed a bit different for Jackson and the Ravens though. While still maintaining their belief in the run game, this was the most “open offense” Lamar has been a part of during his 6-year career as a Baltimore Raven. With the addition of free agent Odell Beckham Jr. and 1st round NFL Draft pick of former Boston College standout Zay Flowers, the offense benefited with more explosive pass plays downfield this past regular season. The quarterback specifically saw career highs in attempts, completions, yards and yards per completion, while also posting his second best QB rating of his career with a 102.7 (MVP Year of 2019 was 113.3).

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Cleveland Browns v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

On the flip side, the Texans have found lightning in a bottle with the extremely rare success seen in year one with a rookie QB and rookie head coach. Second overall pick and soon to be AFC Rookie of the Year C.J. Stroud had a stellar first season under the impressive leadership of former San Francisco 49ers DC and now first year Head Coach Demeco Ryans. Together, they were able to give Houston its 7th overall but first division title (AFC South) since 2019 with a 10-7 record in the regular season. Stroud was able to set NFL Rookie QB records for: Most passing attempts without an interception (192), Most passing yards in a game (470) and Most TD’s in a game (5). The young signal caller was able to develop instant chemistry with WR’s Nico Collins and fellow rookie Tank Dell, with key contributions also coming from Free Agent acquisitions RB Devin Singletary and TE Dalton Schultz.

Houston Texans v Baltimore Ravens
Linebacker Roquan Smith and teammates celebrate after big play
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Considering how I just laid out all the bells and whistles the two offenses have to offer, one would think I’d be firmly invested in watching that side of the ball. Oh, contraire my friends; defensively is actually where I believe the matchups and schemes deployed will take center stage on this Saturday (3:30 EST) at M&T Bank Stadium. It’ll definitely be watch worthy to see how DeMeco Ryans deploys his defense in order to contain the game breaker that #8 for Baltimore is. The Texans have played Zone defense efficiently for the vast majority of the season, but that has also conversely been a strength of Lamar Jackson and the Ravens passing game. Across the field, Baltimore’s top scoring defense in the league (15.7 ppg) that led the NFL in sacks with 60, will try to confuse the young marksman Stroud with DC’s Mike Macdonald versatile and sometimes complex scheme.

NFL: SEP 10 Texans at Ravens
DeMeco on the sideline ““steady scheming”
Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This one’s big, with an opportunity for each squad to clinch a spot in the AFC Championship on the line. I do believe the weather and elements will play a factor in this one and with the home team being a bit more accustomed and having the better kicking unit, that’s where I’m leaning. I see a competitive game still, with the Ravens beating the Texans 30-20.