The Ravens will face a tough test in Houston tonight as they take on a Texans team which is loaded on the offensive side of the ball.
Baltimore can move up to the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoff picture with a win tonight, but will have to rebound from a tough loss last Sunday to make that happen.
Here are three keys to tonight's matchup:
After all that transpired over the last week, it sure would be nice to see the Ravens jump out to an early lead and prove that their heartbreaking loss to the Steelers is truly behind them. The offense has been struggling, players and coaches are getting frustrated, and the Ravens are facing a Houston team that can score points with the best of them. The last thing Ravens fans want to see is their team fall behind early in the first half, and risk those frustrations carrying over into tonight's crucial AFC battle. The Texans have the league's second-worst defense, so the opportunities will be there tonight, and If the Ravens can put up a couple first half scores, they might start feeling like they can get things turned around.
Keep eyes on Arian
Arian Foster has come out of nowhere to become one of the league's most explosive threats out of the backfield. The Texans' second-year back was an undrafted free agent last year who spent most of the season on the practice squad. Only a little over a year after being promoted to Houston's active roster, he entered this week leading the league in rushing yards (1,230), yards from scrimmage (1,709), touchdowns (15) and rushing touchdowns (13). At 6-1, 227 pounds, Foster is tough to bring down as a rusher, but he's equally dangerous as a receiver. He has 50 catches on the season and averages nearly 10 yards per reception. The Ravens' linebackers will have to spy Foster and make sure he doesn't have too much open room to work with.
Carry the defensive momentum
The Ravens have had a bit of a rollercoaster season defensively, putting up very solid performances at times, and getting gashed at others. They're coming off a week in which that defensive unit dominated the Steelers and gave the Baltimore offense every chance to win the game. This week, the Ravens' D will be put to the test against a Houston offense that has a physical, playmaking wide receiver in Andre Johnson, a dynamic back in Foster, a gunslinging quarterback in Matt Schaub, and other quality vertical threats in tight end Owen Daniels and receivers Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones. Given the struggles that the Ravens' offense are having, it would be a positive sign if the Baltimore defense can put together another strong outing and build some momentum going into the final stretch.