One team has a horrible record in the post-season. The other has never made the playoffs before. Together the Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans truly are the odd couple of the NFL Playoffs. Al Dannity breaks down the key battles that will decide the day at Reliant Stadium.
Bengals built on defensive might and rookie magic Cincinnati’s defense is not elite in any one facet but it’s got no holes. There’s no area where an opponent can look at the Bengals and see a weakness to be exploited. That is the core strength of this unit. What this defense lacks in star power, it makes up for with rigid organization and dedication to the fundamentals. Amongst the loaded defenses of the AFC North, it’s easy to mistake the Bengals for a team that leans heavily on its offense. The success of Cincinnati is rooted in a mean D, one that backs up the successful rookie offensive tandem of A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. While Green is the star, Dalton has been a serviceable signal caller in his first year amongst the big boys.
Green’s greatest challenge could come against a former Bengal. Johnathan Joseph left the Bengals to become the Texans’ big free agent signing in the secondary. Now that move will play a huge role in deciding whether it’s Joseph’s Texans or the Bengals that keep their season alive for one more week. Joseph’s likely match-up with A.J. Green could be the story of the day.
Texans must make passing game relevant It may come as a surprise to NFL betting fans but Houston has actually thrown the ball slightly more often since T.J. Yates took over at quarterback. The Texans run one of the most balanced offenses in the league and have stayed true to this philosophy despite their injury woes. Andre Johnson saw limited action last Sunday but the sheer fact that #80 was healthy enough to catch two passes gives Houston a shot in this fight. Johnson’s presence opens up the offense for Gary Kubiak’s team.
Arian Foster, who has become a threat in the passing game this season, will be a useful safety valve for Yates in the backfield. Don’t expect too many big plays from Houston but I like the Texans’ chances of putting together a few long drives in this game.
The verdict The wind has come out of the Texans’ sails in recent weeks but I believe Houston will be the surprise package of the Wildcard weekend. Johnson wasn’t the only man back in action for the Texans last Sunday. Wade Phillips reassumed his duties as defensive coordinator, having been out of action for medical reasons. It was Phillips who turned Houston’s defense from a collection of talent into a force to be feared. I like the under of +38.5 as I expect a defense-heavy battle. It’s going to be tight but I’m going with the home team; the Texans’ season will last at least one more week.
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