Statistics and who ranks where and what happened in October won’t matter nearly as much on Sunday as the stuff I’ve noted below.
Someone’s going to turn the ball over a couple of times. Let’s hope it’s not the Ravens. Big games almost always change on turnovers. Look no further than last Saturday in Houston when J.J. Watt turned that game around just before halftime with his grab and run into the end zone. If Joe Flacco and Ray Rice and anyone else who touches the ball a lot can hold on to it and not give it to the Texans, that bodes well for the home team. And the same goes for Houston. If Yates, Arian Foster and the rest of the Houston team can go 60 minutes without turning the ball over, they have a very good chance of winning.
Someone’s going to be guilty of a “big penalty”. It will either help create a TD or take one away. Let’s hope that works in the favor of Baltimore, no matter which way it goes. (This is where I’d remind everyone about Daren Stone in Pittsburgh back in January of 2008 or Marcus Smith in Pittsburgh in January of 2011…but I don’t need to do that to prove my point.)
Someone’s going to make a mistake on special teams. Take your pick. A missed field goal in a big situation. A 79 yard kick-off return that allows for an easy TD three plays later. A deflected punt that gives someone great field position. If the Ravens make those mistakes – or even one of them – that might be the difference between moving on to the AFC title game or staying home next weekend. If Houston owns those blunders, they’ll endure a long flight back to Hobby International Airport.
Someone will make a special play. I’m not talking about David Tyree or Santonio Holmes Super-Bowl-special, but something akin to that. A one-handed grab on 3rd and 19 with five minutes left in a one-score game. Or a spectacular run after nearly being mauled in the backfield. Maybe it’s an interception on a ball that comes inches from hitting the ground and has to be reviewed for five minutes before a decision is handed down. Someone on one of the two teams will do something spectacular, because that’s what happens when good teams with good players get together. The Ravens have plenty of players capable of doing something extra special. So do the Texans.
Those four bullet points will decide the game today.
I wish I could tell you that my crystal ball tells me the visiting team makes the mistakes and the home team takes advantage of them, but I don’t have that capability.
I’ll do what all the rest of you are going to do — I’ll watch it all unfold – from my warm, cozy seat in the press box (OK, that was mean, I’m sorry…) – and hope like hell the Ravens have a smile on their faces when the game ends a little after 4pm.