The Bengals travel to Houston to face the Texans after sneaking into the playoffs, even though they lost to the Ravens in Week 17. The Bengals have rookie Andy Dalton at quarterback and Houston will be starting rookie T.J Yates. Yates was pulled after the first drive in Week 17 against the Titans. The Texans won the AFC South for the first time in team history. The Bengals came in third in the AFC North but that was good enough to get them in. Once you are in the playoffs, everybody has a chance to win.
The Bengals defense has been pretty good this year especially against the run. They allowed 191 yards to Ray Rice last week but that is rare for them. They usually are very good at stopping the run but if they can’t stop the run against the Texans it will be a long day. Arian Foster is a top running back in the NFL and he didn’t play Week 17 to rest his injured knee. He should be ready to go on Saturday against the Bengals to start the playoffs.
The Bengals pass defense is not as strong as their rush defense. However, without Schaub at quarterback the Texans are not a passing team. They rely on the run to set up the pass and try not to make Yates throw 30 plus times in a game. The Bengals already allowed Yates to lead a comeback and the Texans won 20-19 on the final play of the game. The Bengals will most likely double team Andre Johnson and that will limit one of the top receivers in the NFL.
The Texans have been fighting through injuries all year. Arian Foster was hurt the first few weeks of the season. Andre Johnson, Mario Williams, Matt Schaub, and Matt Leinart were also injured this year. Williams, Schaub, and Leinart are out the remainder of the year. They have had trouble since losing Schaub and I think that will continue this week. I think that rookies Andy Dalton and A.J Green will have huge games which will lead the Bengals over the Texans. I think that it will be a fairly low scoring game.
The Bengals offense will have success running the ball in this game. I think that they will start off hot and never look back. The score will not reflect the dominance in the game. I don’t think that T.J Yates can lead the Texans over a very good Bengals defense. The Bengals defense needs to focus on stopping the run, but if they can’t do that then they will lose. I think that they will contain Foster which is the main key in this game. If the Bengals keep Foster under 150 total yards, then they will win the game. If he has over 100 rushing and another 75 plus receiving, then the Texans offense will score a bunch but I don’t think that will happen.
This is the first playoff game of the 2011-2012 season and it should be a very good game. Both teams are excited to be in the playoffs and both will play their hearts out to advance to the next round. If the Texans win, they play the Ravens. If the Bengals win, they play the Patriots. If they catch fire at the right time, then they can do what the Packers did last year. It is possible to run the table as the six seed but unlikely. Having a rookie quarterback makes it even more difficult.
Prediction: 24-17 Bengals