Getty Images

It's safe to say that no one anticipated the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens facing off in the divisional round of the 2024 NFL playoffs when the two teams faced off back in Week 1. 

Baltimore recorded a 25-9 win that day in what was DeMeco Ryans' head-coaching debut. The Ravens won 12 more games during the regular season while finishing as the AFC's top seed. The Texans would lose the following week before winning 11 of their next 16 games, including last Saturday's blowout win over Cleveland on Super Wild Card Weekend. 

The Ravens are a massive favorite entering Saturday afternoon's showdown. They're currently 9.5-point favorites to beat Houston, according to Caesars Sportsbook. The Ravens should be able to take care of business, but no one should be ruling out a Texans team that continues to prove the naysayers wrong. 

Here's a ranking of the five players we think will impact the outcome of Saturday's game the most. 

5. Nico Collins, WR, Houston Texans

Devin Singletary almost got this spot, and he will have to play well in order to take pressure off of C.J. Stroud. But the nod ultimately went to Collins because of his importance to Houston's passing attack. 

Nico Collins
HOU • WR • #12
REC YDs1297
View Profile

Collins made his presence felt against the Browns by catching 6 of 7 targets for 96 yards and a score. He'll have to have a similar performance Sunday, especially with fellow wideout Noah Brown's absence after he was placed on injured reserve earlier this week. 

Collins will have a tough matchup against Marlon Humphrey, the Ravens' top cornerback. But if he is able to win some of his matchups with Humphrey, that should help Stroud and the rest of Houston's playmakers. 

4.  Christian Harris, LB, Houston Texans

Harris' playoff debut was a memorable one. He became the first player since Texans legend JJ Watt to record a sack and a pick six in a playoff game. 

Along with fellow linebacker Blake Cashman, Harris needs to have another impactful game on Saturday. Both players have the task of trying to neutralize Jackson while keeping a lid on Baltimore's running game. The duo will also have to minimize the impact of tight end Isaiah Likely, who has played well since replacing Mark Andrews in the starting lineup.  

3. Justin Madubuike, DT, Baltimore Ravens

A big key in Saturday's game will be the Ravens' ability to pressure Stroud. Baltimore had a whopping 60 sacks during the regular season, with Madubuike leading the way with 13.5 sacks. 

Madubuike is more than a pass rusher, though. He can disrupt an opposing offense in multiple ways, including as a run-stuffer and a setup man for his teammates. It'll be up to Houston's interior offense line to minimize his impact. 

2. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

The likely league MVP will try to play up to his superstar status against Houston. Jackson is surely chomping at the bit to get on the field as he looks to make his first playoff start in three years. 

Lamar Jackson
BAL • QB • #8
View Profile

Jackson has a tough task in front of him, though. The Texans are going to be hellbent on minimizing his impact as a runner. They will also likely try to pressure him with the hope of making him make the same mistakes Joe Flacco made a week ago. 

Fortunately for Jackson, he is aided by a deep receiving corps that forces opposing defenses to play the entire field. Jackson has thrived under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who has created an offense that completely tailors to Jackson's strengths. 

1. C.J. Stroud, QB, Houston Texans

Really, the Texans' hopes of an upset rest mostly on the shoulders of Stroud, who has been in similar situations. Two years ago, Stroud led Ohio State to a thrilling comeback win in the Rose Bowl despite not having future first-round picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave at his disposal (both players opted out of the game). 

C.J. Stroud
HOU • QB • #7
View Profile

Stroud's precise passing will be needed on Saturday, but so will his decision making. Stroud, who is coming off the greatest performance by a rookie quarterback in playoff history, will have to made good decisions while also keeping an eye on Baltimore's pass rush. 

Baltimore needs to be wary of Stroud if the game is still in the balance late in the fourth quarter. Stroud has a knack for playing well in big moments, which could come into play on Saturday.