A closer look at the Texans

Each week during the regular season, we took a closer look at the Ravens’ upcoming opponent. Now that it’s playoff time, we’ll do the same, as Baltimore prepares to host its first playoff game since 2006.

For the second time this year, the Houston Texans will come to Charm City, only this time with a spot in the AFC championship on the line. A lot has changed since their Week 6 matchup, so let’s take a closer look at January’s version of the Texans.

So we meet again: The last time these teams met was way back in October when the Ravens were a mere 3-1 and the Texans, well, the Texans still had all of their quarterbacks healthy. Even without star wide receiver Andre Johnson, Houston’s offense still moved the ball consistently. Matt Schaub threw for 220 yards on 21 completions, targeting eight different receivers in the process. Arian Foster, however, who finished the regular season with 1224 yards and 10 touchdowns, was held in check against the Ravens’ defense, gaining only 3.3 yards per carry as the Texans were held to 93 total yards on the ground.

Defensively, it wasn’t Houston’s finest performance. The Ravens piled up more than 400 yards of total offense, highlighted by Anquan Boldin’s eight catches for 132 yards. Baltimore’s ability to move the ball up and down the field overshadowed a pair of turnovers caused by the Texans, including a defensive touchdown when Wade Smith recovered a fumble in the end zone. At the end of the day, the Ravens came away with the 29-14 victory.

Still searching for No. 1: The Texans are 0-5 all time versus the Ravens. Here’s a look at their brief, but one-sided, history.

2011: @ Ravens 29, Texans 14
2010: Ravens 34, @ Texans 28
2008: Ravens 41, @ Texans 13
2005: @ Ravens 16, Texans 15
2002: Ravens 23, @ Texans 19

How they got here: Speaking of defensive touchdowns, give credit to Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, who pulled down an impressive interception in last Saturday’s wild card win over Cincinnati, then took it 29 yards for the score. At the time of the turnover, the game was tied 10-10 with less than a minute left in the half. Watt’s one-man show on the touchdown undoubtedly gave Houston the boost it needed, as the Texans pulled away from the Bengals in the second half, en route to a 31-10 win. It was the franchise’s first-ever postseason victory.

The Ravens, meanwhile, as winners of the AFC North, earned a first-round bye, and rightfully so. Twelve wins, including a regular-season sweep of rival Pittsburgh, pushed Baltimore to the AFC’s second seed, where a weekend off and rights to a home playoff game were afforded them.

My, how much you changed: Make no mistake about it, Ravens fans. This is a different Texans team than the one that came to town in Week 6. At first glance, the fact that Houston is down to its one-time third-string quarterback is reason enough to salivate, particularly if you’re part of the Ravens’ front seven. But rookie T.J. Yates has filled in nicely for Schaub and backup Matt Leinart, both of whom are out with injuries. During the regular season, Yates led his team on a game-winning drive against, fittingly enough, the Bengals, and captured the franchise’s first division title. Then, if once weren’t enough, Yates beat the orange and black again for the Texans’ first-ever playoff win. Since being named the starter, Yates has completed 61.2 of his passes, throwing for 949 yards and compiling a 4-3 record.

Also back for Houston is Johnson, Yates’ favorite target and one of the top receivers in the game. Johnson missed the earlier matchup with a hamstring injury, but is in playing shape once again. In the wild card victory over Cincinnati, Johnson hauled in five balls for 90 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown pass. Tight end Owen Daniels did suffer an injury to his right hand during Saturday’s win over Cincinnati, and will undergo an MRI to assess the damage. Early reports suggest it is not a compound fracture, however, meaning Daniels is likely to play against the Ravens. We’ll be sure to update you on that story as the week goes on.

Early advantage: It’s hard to determine just how much stock to put into these two teams’ earlier meeting. In terms of personnel, the Texans are a completely different team, particularly on offense. Still, it wasn’t the offense that allowed 29 points and four trips to the red zone. Baltimore has had time to rest and prepare, while Houston has the momentum of the franchise’s first-ever postseason victory. Too early to call this one? You bet. We’ll delve deeper into what makes the Texans click later this week, but early on this one is shaping up to be a great divisional clash.