Irony, it seems, has struck the Houston Texans as they will host the Cincinnati Bengals this Saturday, January 7, at 3:30pm Central Time. It was only three weeks ago when the Texans visited Cincinnati. This time, however, the Texans have home-field advantage and you can guarantee that the “12th Man” will be in attendance…in full force!
The irony in all of this is that it was the Texans’ win over the Bengals that helped the Texans clinch the AFC South and, thusly, their spot in the playoffs. There were less than 10 seconds remaining in the game when QB T.J. Yates connected with WR Kevin Walter for the game winning touchdown which capped off an 80-yard, game-winning, story-tale drive. If you forgot how epic this winning drive was, I have included a video so that you can relive all of the beauty and glitz of the Texans victory that day!
For Houston this game carries a TON of pressure. This is the first time in the team’s franchise in which they have reached the playoffs – a 10-year drought. WR Andre Johnson, the most senior player on the team, deserves this trip to the playoffs more than any other player in the NFL (in my opinion). As one of the best wide-receivers in the business he could have easily packed up and headed for greener pastures years ago. However, he stuck with the Texans through thick-and-thin and is now healthy enough to play in his first ever playoff game.
Cincinnati, too, is feeling the pressure of this game. This is a team that was not even predicted to have a winning record this season. Despite the fact that they are starting a rookie quarterback, Andy Dalton, they have finished the regular season with a respectable 9-7 record. This is only their third winning season in the last 10 years.
However, both teams are also coming off losses and will be looking to rebound from those losses. The Texans, however, have a defense that has been dominating offenses all season long.
In their last meeting the Texans offense defeated the Bengals statistically, despite winning by only one point. T.J. Yates threw for 300 yards and two TDs to Dalton’s 189 yards and 1 TD. The Texans running backs rushed for 108 yards to the Bengals 101 yards. Defensively, however, the Bengals got the best of the Texans as they out-sacked the Texans five sacks to one. The Bengals also forced four Texans fumbles, three of which were recovered by the Bengals.
Not all is lost for the Texans though. This week’s game against the Tennessee Titans saw many of the starters playing very limited time. Both CB Johnathan Joseph and RB Arian Foster sat out the game while the remaining starters played only in the first half of the game. The Bengals, however, had to play all of their starters for the entire game in hopes of securing their spot in the playoffs. This could prove to be advantageous for the Texans who will have more well-rested starters for this week’s playoff game.
No matter what, this game will be a knock-down, drag-out fight to the finish. Both teams are playing for respect, pride, and, most importantly, a chance to continue on through the playoffs.
From Jerome Solomon, of Chron.com, here are the 12 reasons why the Texans will defeat the Bengals this week:
1. Wade Phillips vs. Andy Dalton: I’ll take Phillips’ defense against a rookie QB in a big game any day. Dalton hasn’t been as good lately as he was early. Since the merger, only three rookies (Aaron Brooks, Mark Sanchez and Ben Roethlisberger) have thrown for more than 200 yards in a playoff game, and Brooks was the only one to do it in a win, as he led the Saints to a 31-28 win over St. Louis in 2000.
2. Andre Johnson: One of the best five football players on the planet in his first playoff game. Oh yeah, he will be hard to stop.
3. Reliant Stadium: I wouldn’t be surprised if it is one of the loudest stadiums the NFL has seen Saturday. This game has been a long time coming and the place will be rocking. The over/under on Bengals’ false start penalties is 2 1/2.
4. Brian Cushing: He got a solid half-game rest against the Titans, and he is understandably peeved that he didn’t make the Pro Bowl. He will show the league how good he is.
5. Arian Foster: He had a fumble against the Bengals in the win there and was bottled up with only 41 yards on 15 carries. He won’t let that happen again. Look for a big day from him.
6. Ben Tate: As the president of the Ben Tate Fan Club, I must tell you that should Foster not have a big day, Tate will. He averaged eight yards a carry against the Bengals the last time they played. He’ll pop one this week.
7. Connor Barwin: The game has special meaning to him, as he played college ball in Cincinnati. Bengals are weak blocking on the edge, so he could have a big day.
8. The Texans offensive line: Among the best in the business, they had a little lull, but looked more like themselves early against the Titans. They’ll come in ready to roll.
9. Johnathan Joseph: So, rookie wideout A.J. Green had a nice day (five catches for 59 yards) against J-Jo the last time? Oh, and people asked Joseph about losing that battle? To a rookie? Oh, he will be up for the challenge. Not to mention, Joseph played his first five seasons with the Bengals and would love to stick it to them.
10. Danieal Manning: Gotta like a veteran safety against a rookie quarterback who should be under duress from up-front pressure. There should be a couple of chances for picks over the middle.
11. Luck of the draw: At some point, the Texans will have a high-scoring game without Matt Schaub. This could be the week. Think about it, the most points they have scored since Schaub went down was the 22 they put up in the glorified preseason contest Sunday. Otherwise it was 20 points in Cincinnati. And that was with four turnovers. A 30-point day has to be around the corner, right? (It won’t come in Baltimore the next week.)
12. Because The King says they will: You really think a team from the Queen City will beat a team from The King’s city? Come on, people. I am not throwing out my preseason pick of the Texans in the AFC Championship Game just yet. I have had a feeling about this team all season and I think for the most part Kubiak has handled this squad superbly throughout. He could still be outcoached this week, no doubt. But I get the feeling his offensive plan will be on the money. Cincinnati has protected Dalton, but can’t afford to do that if they trail in a playoff game. Once the Texans open an early lead and force the Bengals to abandon the run, it will be party time at Reliant.
Tags: 12th Man A.J. Green Aaron Brooks Afc AFC South Andre Johnson Andy Dalton Arian Foster Baltimore Ben Roethlisberger Ben Tate Bengals Brian Cushing Cincinnati Cincinnati Bengals Connor Barwin Danieal Manning Houston Johnathan Joseph Kevin Walter Mark Sanchez Matt Schaub T.J. Yates Texans Titans Wade Phillips