Everything setting up nicely for Ravens

Sunday's matchup with the Houston Texans should be the start of a long postseason run

January 08, 2012|Kevin Cowherd

Are you getting the feeling things are breaking really well for the Ravens? Like the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter's aligned with Mars and all that?

Now they get to play the Houston Texans in the AFC divisional-round game Sunday.

The same Texans they beat 29-14 at M&T Bank Stadium back in October. The ones led by a third-string rookie quarterback. Who was a fifth-round draft pick. And has a separated left shoulder.

Yeah, those Texans.

And the Ravens get to play them at home, too. Where they're only 8-0 this season. Where they gobble up and spit out great running backs like Arian Foster, no matter what kind of a highlight-reel game the guy is coming off.

And, please, let's not hear about how great the Texans looked beating the Cincinnati Bengals Saturday.

The Bengals looked absolutely awful in that 31-10 loss, OK?

Their sideline was in a perpetual state of confusion. Marvin Lewis looked like a guy standing on the side of the road with the hood of his car popped and steam billowing out, wondering why the damn thing stopped running.

I won't even get into the two dumb challenges the Bengals coach made.

Or how rookie quarterback Andy Dalton lost his cool after his 12th interception or whatever (OK, his third) and started flinging his helmet over the Bengals' bench like it was some kind of Take Your Anger Out Here! skee-ball game.

The point is, the Bengals practically gift-wrapped that win for the Texans. And that noisy crowd of 71,000-plus at Reliant Stadium gave the Bengals' offense fits every time they lined up. It'll be a totally different story when the Texans play here at the Bank.

Of course, the Ravens won't tell you how thrilled they are to be playing the Texans next.

No, that would violate Section 143 of the NFL's Blowing Smoke Handbook, the one that says never say anything to tick off your next opponent. And always talk up your next opponent like it's the greatest team in league history.

So you'll hear a lot of talk coming out of the Ravens and their coaches this week about how much they respect the Texans, how dangerous this team is and blah, blah, blah.

And some of it might even be true.

Understand, I'm not saying Sunday's game will be a walk in the park for the Ravens. Or that the Texans don't have some truly outstanding talent, a lot of it of the up-and-coming variety.

Foster is an absolute monster who can change the tone of a game every time he touches the ball. He rushed for 1,224 yards in the regular season. He bludgeoned the Bengals for 153 yards and two touchdowns. You don't do that with mirrors, especially not in the playoffs, where the intensity level is just a notch below the final battle scene in "Braveheart."

Andre Johnson, the Texans' great wide receiver, is back, too. And don't forget rookie defensive end J.J. Watt, Mr. Velcro Hands himself.

Did you see him leap and pick off Dalton's pass right before halftime? And run it back 29 yards for a touchdown that was like a punch in the gut to the Bengals?

How did he hold onto that ball? I'm not sure I've ever seen anything like it. That was the equivalent of catching a fastball thrown over his head from 10 feet away.

These big D- linemen like Watt, they usually have hands of stone. They usually catch passes like they're wearing hockey gloves.

But Watt, my God, he looked like, well, Andre Johnson. In fact, I don't think even Johnson makes that catch nine out of 10 times.

Still, no matter who lines up for the Texans Sunday, the Ravens are a confident bunch right now.

They're playing well. They've had a bye week to rest and recover from some injuries. And they're hungry.

A few of the old guys who have played such key roles — Ed Reed, Ray Lewis and Jarret Johnson — know this could be their last shot at a Super Bowl ring.

They don't want to blow it.

"You don't want to be the team that just has an 18-game season every year," Johnson said the other day. "You don't want to be the team that is just satisfied with making the playoffs and then goes home early.

"We appreciate the fact of what we were able to accomplish. We understand that you don't get this opportunity many times. You look at a guy like Dan Marino, Hall of Famer, he went to the Super Bowl one time.

"Every year, you can't take for granted the fact that you're in the playoffs. You have to take advantage of that, because you don't know if you're ever going to make it again."

Now here come the Texans. And the Ravens are fine with that.


Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. on Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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