The Houston Texans succeeded in defending their home turf Saturday afternoon, winning their first playoff game in franchise history. Running back Arian Foster gashed the Cincinnati defense all day, rookie quarterback T.J. Yates made just enough plays, and fellow rookie defensive tackle J.J. Watt made perhaps the play of the postseason picking off Andy Dalton for a touchdown. The 31-10 Houston win sealed their fate in coming to Baltimore for the Divisional Round next Sunday at 1 P.M.
Had Cincinnati have won, it was widely assumed that it would be the Pittsburgh Steelers coming to B’More for round 3 of the rivalry.
Tim Tebow, though, had other plans.
Nobody gave them much of a chance, but Tebow’s Broncos managed to vanquish Pittsburgh in overtime Sunday night, with a thrilling 29-23 victory.
The Steelers were hobbled, with Ben Roethlisberger still nursing his injured ankle (though he looked fine scrambling around in bringing his team back from a two touchdown deficit to force the extra period), and starting defensive linemen Casey Hampton and Brett Keisel both leaving the game early in the first half. Still, that the 8-8 Broncos were able to overcome them for the victory is just as surprising as the Seattle Seahawks win over New Orleans a year ago.
Many Ravens fans had claimed that they were actually pulling for Pittsburgh on Sunday, due to the implications for a potential AFC Championship game. The thinking being that, Pittsburgh had the best chance of knocking off New England (a much better chance than Denver, anyway), in which case a Ravens victory over Houston would result in the AFC title game being Ravens-Steelers in Baltimore.
While that line of thinking is perfectly logical and defensible, I just couldn’t get behind it.
Sports calls for rooting with your heart, not your head, and I don’t have nearly enough control over my emotions to ever subdue them for three plus hours to allow me to root for the Steelers, even if it is “in my best interest.” I was jumping off my couch when Denver was building their lead, and I had that all-too-familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach as Big Baby Ben was mounting his comeback.
When Tebow sent Pittsburgh home losers on the very first play of overtime, I celebrated like it was Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith providing the heroics.
Now, Denver goes to New England. The Patriots beat the Broncos 41-23 in Denver in Week 15, so they’ll rightfully be double digit favorites entering the game. A Pats win would mean that the Ravens would have to travel to Foxboro if they are able to get by Houston.
But at this point, is anybody really ready to count out Tebow?
The good news is that Pats-Broncos will be next Saturday evening, so the Ravens will know their potential opponent before even kicking off. While they can hardly afford to think about it, Ravens fans making plans for AFC Championship weekend will be able to get a head start on things.
I’m of the opinion that the Ravens can beat the Patriots in Foxboro, should it come to that. While an AFC Championship game in Baltimore would have been incredible, I’m not sure my heart could handle another Pittsburgh-Baltimore match up with that much on the line. With the Steelers out of the way, there will be no black-and-yellow cloud hanging over purple town as the postseason euphoria continues, and I’m personally more than happy about that.
Now, let’s get down to focusing on the task at hand – beating the Houston Texans.