While the game today between the Houston Texans and the Baltimore Ravens may serve as the undercard for the main event between the Packers and Giants, it still has plenty of compelling plot lines.
The Texans, fresh off their first ever playoff victory, will look to lean on their defense and rushing attack in the hopes of protecting rookie quarterback T.J. Yates from the tenacious Ravens defense.
The Ravens, on the other hand, will look to do much of the same, as they would prefer to win this game by overwhelming the Texans offense and putting the ball in the hands of Ray Rice as often as possible.
Here are my predictions for stats, stars and the score:
Both teams will have a 100-yard rusher.
Arian Foster and Ray Rice will both have the unenviable task of trying to pick up yardage on the ground against stingy defensive front sevens.
However, these are also two of the premier rushing attacks, and given that both teams will have some concerns about their quarterback handling the pressure, I expect a steady diet of runs from both offenses.
Ed Reed will have at least one interception.
Despite Houston’s best efforts to shield their rookie quarterback, Yates will eventually have to throw the ball, and when he does, Ed Reed will be there.
Reed is exactly the kind of safety who can bait a quarterback into making an ill-advised throw, and with a rookie under center, that means trouble.
Houston will score on defense, most likely following a fumble by Joe Flacco.
The Houston defense is relentless, especially in bringing pressure on the quarterback.
I predict a strip sack that Houston returns for a score.
For Baltimore, the star of the game will be Ray Rice.
Despite how good the Texans are at defending the run, Ray Rice is simply too good to be held down.
I expect him to rush for well over 100 yards and pick up at least one touchdown.
On the Texans side, the star of the game will be Andre Johnson.
The Ravens defense is too good to be beaten by a one-dimensional rushing attack.
To be successful, the Texans are going to be forced to take to the air and keep the Ravens honest. That’s where Johnson, one of the three or four best receivers in the NFL, comes into play.
I think Baltimore will eventually come out on top, but it will be a tight game right down to the wire, with more scoring than some might expect.
Ravens 27, Texans 24