A year ago, the Ravens manhandled the Texans from start to finish in a 41-7 blowout at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The Ravens’ offense was crisp, the defense was relentless and the score showed every bit of domination.
But the Ravens aren’t expecting any such rout Sunday in Houston.
In an early test, the Ravens will face the Texans in a game that carries more importance than the Week 2 dateline might suggest.
“It’s always tough to play on the road in the National Football League, and it’s even tougher when you have to play a team like the Texans,” coach John Harbaugh said Friday. “They’re a divisional round team — a division champion — a super talented team. (They have) one of the best quarterbacks in football, are very well coached. So, we’re looking forward to it, but we understand the challenge that’s in front of us, and we’ve been preparing for that this week.”
The Texans lost to the Chiefs in Week 1 in the season’s first game. Now with the Ravens in Week 2, a loss would put the Texans in a hole just a few weeks into the season.
The Ravens, on the other hand, are set to face the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs next Monday in Baltimore, before heading to Washington. If the Ravens want to avoid the very real prospect of a 1-2 start, Sunday’s game in Houston is the pivot point for a strong start, or not, to the season for both teams.
Naturally, the matchup will be hailed as a battle of the quarterbacks, as Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson will go head-to-head in another matchup early in their young careers. Both gameplans are centered around slowing down the opposing quarterback.
“Oh, we’re not overconfident — trust me,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said. “He gets better every year. He’s a Pro Bowl quarterback for a reason; it was just one of those days last year. He, to me, is like a LeBron James-type player in the NFL instead of the NBA. He’s a general, he’s a point guard out there and we all respect his game.”
In Houston, it’s not possible to feel like they’ve got Jackson figured out.
“It didn’t go so well for us last year,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. “He’s a great player. He’s got great speed and quickness. He just has a really excellent handle on their offense. They do an unbelievable job with their offensive scheme. He’s got a lot of good players around him, so we need to have a great week of practice here and play a much more disciplined football game on Sunday than we did last year.”
Last year’s game was one that helped propel the Ravens to the AFC’s top seed and cement Jackson’s status as the league’s MVP.
It came in the midst of a five-week stretch for the Ravens where they won every game by at least 14 points. During that stretch, their average margin of victory was 28 points.
Now, both teams will play another important game in the grand scheme of the season. Only this one will just take place in Week 2.