The Ravens opened their 2023 season at home against the Houston Texans. Now, they’ll start their playoff journey in Baltimore against them, too.

At 4:30 p.m. Saturday, the top-seeded Ravens will face the fourth-seeded Texans in an AFC divisional-round game at M&T Bank Stadium. The matchup will be telecast on ABC and ESPN. Houston, the AFC South champion, advanced past the wild-card round with a 45-14 shellacking Saturday of quarterback Joe Flacco and the Cleveland Browns.

The second-seeded Buffalo Bills will take on the third-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC’s other divisional-round game at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

With a win Saturday, the Ravens would host the AFC championship game at 3 p.m. Jan. 28, meaning they’d have an extra day of rest over their opponent.

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Here’s what you need to know about the Texans and Saturday’s divisional-round matchup.

Recent history

The Ravens have won their past four meetings against the Texans and 11 of 13 games overall. In Week 1, the Ravens beat visiting Houston, 25-9, despite being outgained 268-265.

The game marked quarterback Lamar Jackson’s first under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. He went 17-for-22 for 169 yards and an interception and was sacked four times, including once for a fumble that the Texans recovered. Jackson also rushed six times for 38 yards. Wide receiver Zay Flowers, making his NFL debut, had a game-high nine catches on 10 targets for 78 yards.

The game also marked Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud’s NFL debut. The No. 2 overall pick went 28-for-44 for 242 yards and was sacked five times, including once for a fumble that the Ravens recovered. Wide receiver Nico Collins had six catches for a game-high 80 yards.

Strengths

Houston’s offense goes as Stroud goes. And few quarterbacks were more impressive during the regular season.

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The former Ohio State star threw for 4,108 yards this season, the third most by a rookie in NFL history, and 273.9 yards per game, the most among regular starters in 2023. Stroud also finished with 23 passing touchdowns and five interceptions, the league’s best touchdown-to-interception ratio, and added 39 carries for 167 yards and three scores.

Against an elite Browns defense, Stroud on Saturday tied the NFL record for passing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback in a playoff game (three), and did so in the first half. The 22-year-old also became the youngest quarterback to win an NFL playoff game.

Collins finished eighth in the NFL with 1,297 yards and tied for eighth with eight receiving touchdowns. He had six catches on seven targets for 96 yards and a score Saturday. Tight end Dalton Schultz had 59 catches for 635 yards and five touchdowns, as well as a 37-yard touchdown against Cleveland.

The Texans’ defense finished second in the NFL against the run, according to FTN’s efficiency metrics. They allowed just 96.6 yards per game (No. 6 in the NFL) and 3.5 yards per carry (No. 2). The Ravens rushed 32 times for 110 yards (3.4 per carry) and three touchdowns in Week 1.

Weaknesses

Houston’s ground game is a nonfactor. The Texans’ rushing offense ranked No. 30 in efficiency after averaging just 96.9 yards per game (No. 23 in the NFL) and 3.7 yards per carry (No. 29). Running back Devin Singletary rushed for a team-high 898 yards (4.2 per carry) and four touchdowns, while Dameon Pierce, Houston’s leading rusher last year, had 416 yards (2.9 per carry) and two touchdowns.

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The Texans’ pass defense is also vulnerable, ranking 23rd in efficiency. While Derek Stingley Jr. is one of the NFL’s most talented young cornerbacks, Houston is also starting safety DeAndre Houston-Carson, who was signed off the Ravens’ practice squad on Halloween. The Texans allowed 91 “explosive” completions this season (gains of at least 16 yards), tied for the sixth most in the NFL, according to TruMedia.

Lineup changes

The Ravens played Houston in their season opener without cornerback Marlon Humphrey (calf), who will likely be available in the divisional round, and tight end Mark Andrews, whose availability is unclear as he recovers from midseason ankle surgery. He was designated to return off injured reserve Friday.

The Ravens lost safety Marcus Williams in Week 1 to a pectoral injury in the second quarter, left tackle Ronnie Stanley to a knee injury in the fourth quarter and running back J.K. Dobbins to a season-ending Achilles tear. Williams and Stanley are set to play in the postseason.

The Texans played their season opener without starting linebacker Blake Cashman, who led the team in tackles during the regular season; starting left guard Juice Scruggs, a second-round pick; and reserve wide receiver John Metchie III, a second-round pick in 2022. All three are expected to play in the divisional round.

Houston rookie wide receiver Tank Dell, who had three catches for 34 yards against the Ravens and finished second on the team this season in receiving yards, suffered a season-ending fibula injury in Week 13. Wide receiver Noah Brown, who was fourth on the team in receiving yards, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Cleveland.

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Center Jarrett Patterson and safety Eric Murray, who also started against the Ravens, are on season-ending injured reserve as well.

Injuries

Two Texans players left Saturday’s game with injuries and did not return: linebacker Denzel Perryman (ribs), who finished fourth on the team in tackles, and Brown. Perryman’s rib injury is reportedly not serious. Star left tackle Laremy Tunsil left the game with a knee injury briefly before returning. Reserve defensive end Jerry Hughes was ruled out of the game Thursday with an ankle injury.

Houston’s two most productive pass rushers, defensive ends Jonathan Greenard (12.5 sacks) and rookie Will Anderson Jr. (seven sacks), were limited by ankle injuries. Greenard, who had a sack and two quarterback pressures against the Ravens in Week 1, according to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, played just 15 defensive snaps (21.4% total) against Cleveland. Anderson, the No. 3 overall pick, who had a sack and six pressures in Baltimore, played just 37 defensive snaps (52.9%) Saturday.

Five Ravens, meanwhile, missed all three practices last week: wide receiver Zay Flowers (calf), outside linebacker Odafe Oweh (ankle), inside linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips (shoulder), linebacker Malik Harrison (groin) and Humphrey. Coach John Harbaugh said Friday that it was “still early to really predict too much” about their playoff availability. “There’s a ways to go for guys, but they’re certainly on track, and I think we’ll know more next week.”

Odds

The Ravens have opened as 9.5-point favorites on DraftKings. The over-under for the game’s total is 46 points.

Jonas Shaffer is a Ravens beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun. Shaffer graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Silver Spring. 

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