Arian Foster will need to get outside the tackles if the Texans are going to have an effective running game.
Defending the middle of the field: Will Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco be able to throw to his favorite area of the field? Accoring to ESPN stats and Info, Flacco has completed 64.3 percent of his throws inside the numbers this season compared with 51.3 percent outside. The Texans allowed the fewest touchdown passes (three) and lowest completion percentage (56.8) inside the numbers this season. They also grabbed 11 of their 17 interceptions in that territory. Safety play has a huge bearing on these numbers, vast improvements over what the 2010 Texans did. Watch Glover Quin and Danieal Manning patrolling the middle of the field.
Between the tackles: I’m not sure the Texans should spend much time trying to run up the middle. The Ravens prevented the Texans from grinding it out between the tackles in Week 6 when Baltimore won 29-14. The Texans averaged 6.5 yards per rush outside the tackles in the game, but only 2.8 between the tackles. (That number is 4.8 in the rest of their games.) This season, the Ravens have allowed the fewest yards per rush (3.51) between the tackles. The Texans are great at moving laterally, stretching a front out and allowing Arian Foster or Ben Tate to judge where the crease is and go. They’ll need to do that effectively to have a chance in this game.
Breaking down T.J. Yates: Yates joined Flacco and Mark Sanchez as the only rookie quarterbacks since 1966 to not throw an interception in their first playoff games. Yates has benefitted greatly from play-action, with 2.7 more yards per attempt and a QBR of 57.2, 13.9 points higher than when the Texans don’t run play-action. On throws that have travelled 15 yards or more in the air, Yates has unsurprisingly fared far better with Andre Johnson as the target. The quarterback is averaging 14.1 yard per such attempt when Johnson is the target, and 9 yards when it’s anyone else.