Edgar Allen Poe
I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Not sure if Houston Texans fans are venturing through the insane, or the interval of insanity right now. Either way, it feels surreal to see the team two games into the NFL playoffs in just the first year of rookie head coach DeMeco Ryans tenure.
It’s like we almost got so used to losing that winning feels foreign.
Thankfully, the team has nothing to lose this weekend. If they come out of MT Bank Stadium with a win over the #1 AFC Seed Baltimore Ravens, then the fantastical season continues on. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Texans as 9.5-point underdogs, which isn’t great ...
If the Texans fall to Baltimore, the season is still a success based on the expectations of the fanbase just six or seven months ago.
At this juncture, Coach Ryans can really do no wrong.
Hopefully, that feeling insulates the players and staff from the sorts of pressures that crush other teams in “make or break” seasons.
No one expected this team to make the playoffs. Well, other than Debbie the Texan that is.
If Houston had ended the season with six wins, it would have been a success.
To capture the AFC South Division Championship, then defeat the Cleveland Browns convincingly in the Wildcard Round is more than we legitimately could have hoped for when Ryan’s tenure began.
All that to say, win or lose on Saturday, this season is still a win for H-Town and sign of things to come.
Reading in between the lines of all that, this game is no gimme by any stretch. The Ravens are a loaded team, with great players, solid coaching, proven schemes and a winning track record.
Can the Houston D slow down Lamar Jackson and Zay Flowers?
Will C.J. Stroud, Nico Collins and Devin Singletary continue to gobble up yards and score points like they did in Cleveland?
Will this game see touchdown fireworks or turn into a low-scoring grinder?
We’ll find out on Saturday afternoon.
Houston’s surging offense is averaging 22.2 points per game, while Baltimore’s is delivering 28.4. The H-Town defense is giving up 20.8 points per game, while the Raven’s D is only allowing 16.5.
Where does Houston have the major edge? #InDemecoWeTrust
Here’s DeMeco Ryans telling Christian Harris step by step how to pick off Joe Flacco for the Texans 2nd pick six.— BigE (@BigE_Houston) January 17, 2024
That’s my Coach of the Year!! pic.twitter.com/6kE9Biz3I9
HOUSTON TEXANS DIVISIONAL ROUND STATS
HOUSTON TEXANS won first division title since 2019. Became first team in SB era to win division with rookie HC & rookie QB. Can advance to first AFC championship game in franchise history.
DEMECO RYANS can become first rookie HC to advance to conference championship game since Matt LaFleur in 2019 with the Green Bay Packers.
QB C.J. STROUD completed 16 of 21 attempts (76.2 pct.) for 274 yards & three TDs vs. zero INTs with 157.2 rating in AFC-WC, highest rating by rookie ever in a playoff game & is one of four rookie QBs ever with 3+ TD passes in playoff game. Can become sixth rookie QB ever to start & win Div. Round playoff game. Needs 281 pass yards to surpass Andrew Luck (4,663 in 2012) for most pass yards ever by rookie, including playoffs. Has zero INTs in six of seven road starts this season. Passed for 242 yards in Week 1 meeting.
RB DEVIN SINGLETARY rushed for 66 yards & TD in AFC-WC, sixth-straight game overall with 60+ scrimmage yards. Has rush TD in three of his past four on road.
WR NICO COLLINS led team with six catches for 96 yards & TD in AFC-WC, ninth game this season & third in a row with 80+ rec. yards. Has TD catch in three of past four. Had six catches for 80 yards in Week 1 meeting.
WR JOHN METCHIE had career-high 44 rec. yards in AFC-WC.
WR ROBERT WOODS has 55+ rec. yards in three of four career games vs. Baltimore Ravens
TE DALTON SCHULTZ had TD catch in AFC-WC, third-straight playoff game with TD catch. Can become third TE ever with rec. TD in four straight playoff games (Rob Gronkowski & Travis Kelce).
TE BREVIN JORDAN had career-long 76-yard TD catch in AFC-WC, second-longest receiving TD ever by TE in a playoff game.
DE JONATHAN GREENARD led team with career-high 12.5 sacks in 2023. Had two TFL & sack in Week 1 meeting.
DE WILL ANDERSON (rookie) had sack in AFC-WC & has sack in two of past three overall. Had sack in Week 1 meeting.
LB BLAKE CASHMAN led team with career-high 104 tackles this season & had career-best nine TFL. Had 10 tackles last week.
LB CHRISTIAN HARRIS had eight tackles, sack & 36-yard INT-TD in AFC-WC, first-career TD. Had sack in Week 1 meeting.
CB STEVEN NELSON had three PD & 82-yard INT-TD last week. Had INT in Week 1 meeting. Harris & Nelson are first pair of teammates each with INT-TD in playoff game since 2007.
BALTIMORE RAVENS DIVISIONAL ROUND STATS
BALTIMORE RAVENS clinched AFC North division title for first time since 2019 & AFC’s first overall seed for second time in franchise history (2019). Can advance to fifth AFC championship game & first since 2012. Led NFL in rushing offense in 2023 (156.5 yards per game).
JOHN HARBAUGH led Baltimore to SB XLVII title in 2012.
QB LAMAR JACKSON had career-high 3,678 pass yards in 2023 & led QBs with 821 rush yards, becoming second player ever with 3,500+ pass yards & 800+ rush yards in a season, joining Kyler Murray (2020). Finished season with 250+ pass yards, 2+ TD passes & 90+ rating in each of final three home games. Has 367 rush yards (91.8 per game) in four career playoff games. Is 3-0 with five TDs vs. INT & 117.3 rating in three career starts vs. Houston
RB GUS EDWARDS set career highs in rush yards (810) & rush TDs (13) in 2023, second-most rush TDs in a season in franchise history. Has seven rush TDs in his past seven at home.
RB JUSTICE HILL had career-high two rush TDs in Week 1 meeting.
TE MARK ANDREWS can make first appearance since Week 11. Had six receiving TDs in 2023 & is one of two TEs (Travis Kelce) with 5+ rec. TDs in each of past five seasons.
TE ISAIAH LIKELY finished season with TD catch in four of final five games overall & in each of his final three home games.
WR ZAY FLOWERS ranked fourth among rookies with 77 catches & fifth with 858 rec. yards, both most-ever by Ravens rookie. Finished season with rec. TD in four of his final five games.
WR ODELL BECKHAM JR. has 95+ rec. yards in two of his past three at home. Aims for his fifth playoff game in row with 50+ rec. yards.
DT JUSTIN MADUBUIKE was selected to first-career Pro Bowl after leading team with 13 sacks in 2023, most by a Ravens player since 2014. Has sack in six of is past seven at home. Had sack in Week 1 meeting.
LB ROQUAN SMITH ranked sixth in NFL with 158 tackles in 2023, third- straight season with 150+ tackles. Has 7+ tackles in each of two career playoff games. Has two TFL in each of three career games vs. Houston, with sack in two of three.
LB PATRICK QUEEN totaled career-best 133 tackles this season.
LB JADEVEON CLOWNEY tied career high with 9.5 sacks in 2023. Was selected first overall by Houston in 2014 NFL Draft.
S GENO STONE ranked second in NFL with seven INTs in 2023, most by a Ravens player since 2010.
Get ready Baltimore, DeMeco Ryans is coming, and the Texans are coming with him.