Why the Texans Will Win
Just a few weeks ago, the Texans were being looked at as the class of the AFC and the potential favorite to represent the Conference in the Super Bowl. With a spot in the postseason as good as locked up at 11-1, the Texans proceeded to drop three of their last four games to three playoff teams (Pats, Vikings, and Colts), while defeating Indy at home in that stretch. One can argue that the Texans have limped into the playoffs, have lost all momentum of their hot start, and have fallen back out of a contender’s spot behind Denver and New England. Well, one can also argue that Houston had checked out of the regular season and was already thinking about January starting in Week 13. While the Texans have lost their bye, they now get a chance to play the six seed in Cincy at home where they’re 6-2 this year. While this is a rematch of the 3-6 game from the 2012 postseason, we won’t see the same Texans team on the field on either side of the ball. Instead of rookie T.J. Yates trying to manage the game, Houston has their main guy under center this year in Matt Schaub. While he’s making his first career postseason start, Schaub gives the Texans playoff hopes a much bigger boost by his presence. He needs to wake up and play like he did earlier in the year, and not like his recent four game stretch (only 1 TD, 3 INTs) in order to best compliment the real firepower to the Texans O, running back Arian Foster. The Texans will establish their run game and while does alright against the run (12th in the league), they still allow over 100 yards a game and Foster is no average back. Meanwhile, the biggest transformation on the defensive end for Houston is the emergence of the freakish JJ Watt. The likely choice for defensive player of the year, Watt has taken the NFL by storm and causes mass havoc attacking the quarterback, getting after the ballcarrier, and deflecting passes at the line. Watt led all pass rushers with 20.5 sacks this season and was amongst the best corners in the game with 16 pass deflections. Watt is like rich man’s Jason Pierre-Paul hype-wise when it comes to entering these playoffs and expect him to make life excruciating difficult for an average o-line and Andy Dalton.
Why The Bengals Will Win
The Bengals have had one of the best second halves of the the season of any team in the NFL. Winners of seven of their last eight games, the Nati comes into the playoffs playing strong football. Now looking at that schedule a little deeper cheapens that fact a bit, considering Cicny only played one playoff team in those games and had the luck of playing the three stooges of the AFC West (Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers) for thee straight weeks at a point. But if you believe in momentum, then you have to believe the Bengals have the upper hand over the Texans. As I previously pointed out, Houston… not looking too hot right now. Yet Cincy took down their top two rivals in the last two weeks of the season. The key to the Bengals winning this game? The Andy Dalton-AJ Green connection. Dalton hasn’t wowed anyone necessarily this season, but he’s played good enough; think a step above a game manager. He is the more playoff experienced QB compared to Schaub, even if it only is one game, and can draw from that experience in Houston again tonight. Meanwhile Green has had a coming out party as an NFL superstar this campaign. 97 receptions, 1,350 yards, and 11 TDs will do that for a player as he’s reached All-Pro quality level. The production from Green should be a guarantee, even with a corner like Jonathan Joseph on AJ, so the big question is what Cincinnati can get from guys like Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis, Andre Roberts, Jermaine Gresham, and the other offensive weapons. If they can step up, then the pressure lightens on Dalton and the Cincy offense can work on a defense that outside of Watt, isn’t great. Leon Hall and Terrance Newman will be responsible for frustrating Schaub in the secondary while Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson clog run lanes and make stops in the backfield. If everything goes to plan, the Bengals can pull of the road upset no problem.
Who Really Will Win
The Texans. Cincinnati has had a really nice run, but their holes on offense scare me. There’s no strong enough 2nd passing option for Dalton past Green and Law Firm is already banged up as it is. With a lackluster run game and limited weapons, it’d take a Herculean effort from the Nati’s defense, which is possible, but highly unlikely in the road for a playoff game. I’m worried about Schaub’s poor play as of late, but not the Texan’s offense. Maybe because they have the best player on the field on the offensive side of the ball in Foster. Advice to Gary Kubiak… hand the ball off… a lot! Having the most talented player on either side of the ball (Watt on defense) doesn’t guarantee anything in football, but I have a good feeling NBC will have those two down on the sidelines as their players of the game come the end of this contest. Final score, Houston 27 – Cincinnati 13