The NFL divisional playoff game garnering the least attention this year is between the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens. The Texans will be visiting the Ravens in Baltimore, and they’ll be the underdogs to try to emerge with a victory. For Baltimore, it’s their first shot in a very long time to have a playoff game at home, so they’ll be cherishing that opportunity and looking to capitalize on their home field advantage.
The Ravens are used to being the road warriors in the postseason. Joe Flacco and coach John Harbaugh have not gotten to play at home in the playoffs yet, ever, before this game. They’ve had good success on the road too in past playoff appearances, but it’s simply much harder to get the job done. But they scratched and clawed all season long for the privilege, and beat the Steelers twice in order to lock up the AFC North division, as well as a first round bye.
So they’ll be at home in this game, and they were an excellent team at home all season long. Their work on the road was suspect, and they suffered several large letdown games as the road team this year. But at home, they were undefeated and went 8-0 during the regular season, something the Texans probably don’t want to be reminded about.
For guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, this season might be their best shot to win another Super Bowl. With Ray Rice being one of the most dynamic backs in the league, Terrell Suggs being a beast, and both of those guys still playing at a very high level, this is a Ravens team that is hard to match up with, and a dangerous team to face when they get things clicking.
The Texans meanwhile enjoyed their first playoff game ever, and of course their first postseason win in team history, last weekend against the Cincinnati Bengals. But beating the suspect Bengals at home is one thing, and heading into Baltimore with a third string quarterback is an entirely different thing.
These two teams met in the regular season, in Baltimore, and the Ravens were able to win handily. That was when Houston had Matt Schaub in the lineup, and not number 3 QB TJ Yates. That doesn’t bode well for the Texans here. The Baltimore players, and the crowd, are going to be extremely fired up for this one and the rare home playoff game opportunity. They’ll come out firing on all cylinders, and they’ll lock up the win with strong play on both sides of the ball. Take Baltimore to win, although maybe Houston makes it interesting
The Packers didn’t go undefeated, but one of the 15 games they did win a Week 13 game at the New Meadowlands, a 38-35 win thanks in part to a 31-yard field goal by Mason Crosby as time expired.
Since that point, each team has lost just one game, but the prevailing public opinion is that the Giants are playing their best football of the season and have as good a chance as anyone to knock off the top-seeded Packers this season.
While that is certainly a possibility, New York will have to play extremely well in a number of facets of the game.
If the Giants are going to have success this weekend, they are going to need to put pressure on Aaron Rodgers. They can’t just blitz the house, because Rodgers will prey on the single coverage in the secondary and light up the scoreboard. New York needs to rely on Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Chris Canty up front to not only apply pressure, but also keep Rodgers in the pocket so he can’t makes plays on the run.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants have to prevent turnovers at all costs. The Packers have a penchant for capitalizing on turnovers, but taking care of the ball on offense keeps the ball out of Rodgers’ hands. New York cannot waste possessions, as Green Bay can put up 40 on even the best defenses, and the Giants will need every possible chance to score.
The Giants could have a great day on offense, but there’s a strong consensus that the Packers will have an even better one. My rooting interest prevents me from giving an honest and un-bias opinion so I’ll just sit back, relax, enjoy the show while rooting hard for Big Blue.