The AFC North champion Baltimore Ravens (12-4) have earned a first-round bye for the first time since the 2006 season. By doing that, it means they will host a playoff game for the first time since the 15-6 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round in the playoffs that year.
The Ravens will also try and get their first home win in the playoffs since their Super Bowl championship season. The Ravens then beat the Denver Broncos 21-3 on New Year's Eve in the wild-card round in 2000.
Head coach John Harbaugh is determined to get this team back to the Super Bowl this season more than ever it seems.
Since Harbaugh arrived, the Ravens have never played a home playoff game. One thing they have done though, is actually win their opening game in the playoffs the last three seasons with all coming on the road. The Ravens are currently 4-3 in the playoffs under Harbaugh.
The significance of this is the Ravens are very good at home, and can use their experience in road playoff games as well. Baltimore was a perfect 8-0 at home this season including winners of the last 10 games at M&T Bank Stadium dating back to last season. The Ravens defense has only allowed two opponents to score over 17 points in that span.
The Ravens also are currently 5-0 against the Houston Texans all-time including a 29-14 win in Week 6 this season. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco went 20-for-33 with 305 yards and an interception. The game was won by Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff who hit five field goals that day.
Don’t look at the score though and think it was lopsided. The Texans were in this game all the way up to four minutes left in the game. It was actually 19-14 until the Ravens got a late score. It took the Ravens to step up and score the last 16 points in the game.
Houston was also playing without star players Mario Williams and Andre Johnson. By the end of the season it wouldn’t have been significant, but the team relies of these two guys, and they didn’t have time to adjust yet.
If Houston wants any shot, which I think they do, they need to get another stellar performance from running back Arian Foster. Foster finished fifth in the league in rushing, and the Texans ranked second in the league in the ground game. Foster led the Texans past Cincinnati last week in the team’s first-ever playoff game by rushing for 153 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
He will need to do this again tomorrow to help rookie T.J. Yates manage the game. The Ravens defense ranks second against the rush and third overall, so that matchup will be the key.