Ravens will face familiar foe in divisional round … one way or another

OWINGS MILLS — The Ravens will have to wait until late Sunday afternoon to learn who they will play in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.

Inevitably, though, it will be a rematch of a game or games played in the 2023 regular season.

The top-seeded Ravens will face the lowest remaining seed left after the wild-card round.

Here is a deeper look at the potential opponents:

Houston Texans

Playoff seed: 4

Wild-card opponent: Browns

2023 result: Week 1: Ravens 25, Texans 9

Analysis: The defense limited the Texans to 7-for-18 (38.9 percent) on third down and 1-for-4 (25 percent) on fourth down, while holding them without a touchdown on two red-zone drives. Ravens running back Justice Hill posted his first career multi-touchdown game, scoring on a pair of 2-yard runs. Rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers had nine receptions for 78 yards while adding two rushes for 9 yards.

Houston is a much better team now, and rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has made tremendous strides since that setback in the first game of the regular season. Still, Houston will have trouble getting past the Browns in the opening wild-card game.

Cleveland Browns

Playoff seed: 5

Wild-card opponent: Texans

2023 results: Week 4: Ravens 28, Browns 3; Week 10: Browns 33, Ravens 31

Analysis: The Ravens dominated the Browns in the first meeting. Baltimore’s offense had 296 yards (131 rushing and 165 passing) and scored 28 points, reaching the end zone on all four red-zone trips. The Ravens’ defense allowed 166 total yards (93 rushing and 73 passing), marking its fewest since 2018. Quarterback Lamar Jackson completed 15 of 19 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns (142.5 rating), while adding two rushing TDs and 27 rushing yards on nine attempts. It marked his first career game with at least two passing TDs and two rushing TDs.

The second game was a different story. The Ravens led, 31-17, with 11:35 left. Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson started the comeback when he threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Moore with 8:57 remaining. After that, a pass by Jackson caromed off the defensive line and was returned for a 34-yard touchdown by Greg Newsome. The Browns drove 58 yards in the final minutes to set up a 40-yard, game-winning kick by Dustin Hopkins as time expired.

This is the ideal potential matchup. Former Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has revitalized Cleveland since being signed as a free agent on November 20th. He has gone 4-1 and thrown for 1,616 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Could Flacco knock out his former team?  A game with Cleveland could be the Ravens’ toughest test.

Ravens nose tackle Michael Pierce (58) tackles Miami Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert (31) in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. By Mitch Stringer-USA Today Sports

Miami Dolphins

Playoff seed: 6

Wild-card opponent: Chiefs

2023 result: Week 17: Ravens 56, Dolphins 19

Analysis: The Dolphins have not been the same since being routed by the Ravens. The 56 points are the most the Ravens have scored at M&T Bank Stadium. Jackson threw for 321 yards with five touchdowns for a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating. With the win, Baltimore clinched the No. 1 seed in the postseason.

One week later, Miami was denied its opportunity to win the AFC East with a 21-14 loss to the Bills. The Dolphins finished the season 1-5 against teams with a winning record. The Ravens would likely see a different Dolphins team than the one they dominated in Week 17. Running back Raheem Mostert (1,012 yards rushing) and wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (1,014 yards receiving) are expected to be back for the playoffs after missing the last two games of the regular season. It would be a tougher matchup. However, the Dolphins will have to beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium to advance,

Pittsburgh Steelers

Playoff Seed: 7

Wild-card pponent: Bills

2023 results: Week 5: Steelers 17, Ravens 10; Week 18: Steelers 17, Ravens 10

Analysis: The Steelers have won seven of their past eight games against the Ravens, all by one score. The Ravens had their full arsenal of players in the loss in Pittsburgh. However, the Ravens rested many of their key starters in the second game, while Pittsburgh was playing for a playoff spot.

Pittsburgh will have trouble getting past the surging Bills, who have won five straight games to capture the AFC East. The Ravens and Steelers have familiarity with one another, so it likely would be another close game if they meet in the postseason. However, the Ravens would be favored despite the recent history between the teams.


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