The Houston Texans (5-7) will need to replicate their trademark late-season surge under head coach Gary Kubiak against the Baltimore Ravens (8-4) on Monday Night Football to keep their AFC South Division title hopes and playoff dreams alive.
The Texans are a collective 12-4 over the last four games of their schedule under Kubiak since 2006, including a combined 10-2 the last three years. The Texans had an identical record with four games remaining in 2009 and finished the season with a four-game winning streak for the franchise's first winning season at 9-7. The difference this year is that Houston sits two games out of the AFC South lead with four games left and a division title being its best shot at the playoffs.
Both teams are coming off tough primetime losses. The Texans battled back from a 17-3 deficit last Thursday at Philadelphia, taking a 24-20 lead into the fourth quarter before falling 34-24 to the Eagles. Baltimore led Pittsburgh until the final three minutes of the game, losing a 13-10 slugfest to the Steelers on Sunday night.
The NFL's top rushing-receiving duo of Texans RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson will step into the spotlight against Baltimore's eighth-ranked defense, led by All-Pro LB Ray Lewisand DE Terrell Suggs.
Foster has set numerous team records and is having one of the best seasons in NFL history by an undrafted running back. He leads the NFL with 1,230 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns and 1,709 yards from scrimmage. Johnson is coming off a 149-yard receiving effort against Philadelphia and ranks fourth in the NFL with 1,018 yards, his third straight and fifth-career 1,000-yard campaign. Texans QB Matt Schaub is 249 yards shy of becoming the franchise's all-time passing leader and ranks seventh in the NFL with 3,089 yards passing.
Baltimore ranks sixth in the NFL in rush defense, giving up 97.8 yards per game. The Ravens have been especially stingy in the red zone, holding opponents to field goals 60 percent of the time.
Baltimore's answer to Foster and Johnson on offense is RB Ray Riceand WR Anquan Boldin. Rice ranks eighth in the NFL with 1,247 yards from scrimmage and Boldin is ninth in the AFC with 770 yards receiving.
Baltimore leads the all-time series, 3-0, including a 41-13 win against the Texans in the last meeting between the two teams at Reliant Stadium on Nov. 9, 2008.