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Ravens Insider: Ravens vs. Texans staff picks: Who will win Saturday’s playoff game in Baltimore?


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Here’s how The Baltimore Sun sports staff views the outcome of Saturday’s AFC divisional round playoff game between the Ravens (13-4) and the Houston Texans (11-7) at M&T Bank Stadium.

Brian Wacker, reporter

Ravens 27, Texans 17: Both teams are drastically different from the first time they met in Week 1, so forget just about everything from that game. Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud is playing at an elite level and Houston’s two tight ends, Dalton Schultz and Brevin Jordan, are capable of destroying defenses on intermediate and deep routes and especially over the middle, an area of the field the Ravens have at times been vulnerable. But don’t read as much into Houston’s blowout of the Cleveland Browns last week, either. Stroud torched the Browns when they blitzed, and the Ravens are only middle of the pack in blitz rate along with boasting one of the league’s best pass rush win rates. Then the game got out of hand when Joe Flacco threw a pair of interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. Houston’s defense, meanwhile, is strong against the run but one of the worst against the pass, particularly down the field. Expect Baltimore to lean on Lamar Jackson to strike early, set up the run, take an early lead then zero in on Stroud. If Houston can force an early turnover or two and control the clock with the running game, things could get uncomfortable for the Ravens. But the more likely scenario is for Baltimore to do what it has done all season: harass Stroud, get out in front and lean on its defense and ground game to close it out.

Mike Preston, columnist

Ravens 28, Texans 21: DeMeco Ryans has done an excellent job during his first season in Houston, especially with a rookie quarterback. Few, if any, picked the Texans to play in the divisional round. Houston has an outstanding prospect in rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and wide receiver Nico Collins will cause the Ravens some problems, but the Ravens will outclass the Texans’ secondary. Houston has two decent cornerbacks in Derek Stingley Jr. and Steven Nelson, but their safeties are suspect and the Ravens should be able to hit a couple of big plays. On the flip side, if the Ravens’ defense can limit big plays, they should win.

Childs Walker, reporter

Ravens 31, Texans 20: The Ravens will enter as heavy favorites and deservedly so given their dominant close to the regular season. The Texans established themselves as a dangerous team against the Browns. Stroud is a poised, accurate passer, and Houston has young defensive stars to complement him. But Jackson will come out firing against a vulnerable pass defense, and the Ravens will come up with enough different looks to keep Stroud less comfortable than he was against Cleveland. They will begin their Super Bowl push with a convincing victory.

C.J. Doon, editor

Ravens 33, Texans 20: Simply put, this Ravens team is better and more mature than the 2019 version that went one-and-done. They did not have veterans like Roquan Smith, Jadeveon Clowney, Kyle Van Noy and Odell Beckham Jr. when they lost to the Titans, and Lamar Jackson was not the leader he is today. The Texans will enter with plenty of confidence and young stars ready to grab the spotlight from the NFL’s best team, but the Ravens have answered every challenge with authority over the past few months behind a dominant defense and the league’s Most Valuable Player. Expect more of the same with their season and reputation on the line.

Tim Schwartz, editor

Ravens 34, Texans 24: There is undoubtedly a lot of pressure on Lamar Jackson and the Ravens to win this game and get that 2019 failure behind them. But Jackson has been about as even-keeled as a quarterback can be this season and has talked consistently about moments such as these, understanding the importance of winning in the playoffs. He must win this game, or the narrative about him not getting it done when it matters will live on and grow louder. Fortunately for Jackson, he’s surrounded by the NFL’s best roster, one that is about as healthy (and fresh) as it can possibly be. That matters this time of year. C.J. Stroud and the Texans are playing with house money but Baltimore’s defense led the league in sacks, takeaways and points per game, and if there’s one way to slow the rookie down, it’s pressure. Expect Stroud to get his numbers but for the Ravens to, in the end, comfortably win a high-scoring game.

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