Originally written on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 1/7/12

The first game of the NFL playoffs features two teams who are coming into the playoffs following losses. The Bengals are coming off of a loss to the Ravens that could have eliminated them from the playoffs, while the Texans are losers of three straight following their clinching of the AFC South.

The game features two rookie quarterbacks, who both have great threats at the receiver position, and a solid defense to back them up. Andy Dalton has proven everyone wrong who thought the Bengals were going to bring up the rear of the AFC North, (which the Browns took the liberty of doing), and T.J. Yates has stepped into a tough situation and taken his team to the playoffs.

The two teams met up in Week 14 in a game that went down to the wire, with T.J. Yates throwing a touchdown pass to Kevin Walter with two seconds left in the game. The Texans won 20-19, and that was the last time they won a game. The Bengals went on to finish 2-1 after the loss and secure their spot in the playoffs.

Houston Texans

Following their victory over the Bengals, the Texans have literally “limped” into the playoffs with three straight losses, along with a few injuries. T.J. Yates only threw four passes in last week’s game against the Titans due to an injured shoulder, but he will be fine for today’s game. Arian Foster and Andre Johnson have also battled injuries all year, and their well-being is crucial to Houston’s chances of winning.

The Texans’ defense is ranked second in the NFL in overall defense and will be pressuring Andy Dalton all game. They allow less than 190 yards passing and less than 96 yards rushing per game.

In the first meeting between these teams, Houston held the Bengals to 285 yards of total offense, and only one touchdown. Mike Nugent had four field goals with kept Cincinnati in the game until the end. Cedric Benson had 91 yards, which is something the defense will have to focus on. If they can avoid getting gashed for long runs, such as Benson’s 42 yard run in that game, they should be able to control the game.

The key for the Texans will be the play of rookie quarterback T.J. Yates. He went from third string rookie to a starter in the playoffs in a matter of six weeks. He began his time as the team’s signal-caller in Week 12 against Jacksonville, following Matt Leinart breaking his collarbone.

Yates’ best game came against the Bengals, in which he had 300 yards along with two touchdowns. He is only 2-3 as a starter, but most of this time was without Andre Johnson in the game. If he can avoid turning the ball over and just play a solid game, he should be able to set up the Texans to control the time of possession with help from Arian Foster and Ben Tate in the backfield.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals lost their last game of the season against Baltimore, but they still made it to the playoffs as the sixth seed. They have done this under the leadership of Andy Dalton and his favorite target A.J. Green. Dalton has battled the flu this week, but he is going to be just fine for the game.

The biggest issue with the Bengals is their play against playoff teams this year. They went 9-7, and all seven of the losses came against playoff teams, while all of their wins came against non-playoff teams. They went 0-4 against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and lost to the Texans, Broncos, and 49ers. These are not easy games, but it would have been nice to see the Bengals be able to beat one of those teams.

Cincinnati’s defense comes in ranked seventh overall, while allowing just under 212 passing and 105 rushing yards per game. Getting pressure on Yates will be key, as they forced him to throw an interception in their first meeting.

It will also be important to stop the run early, which will force the Texans to become one-dimensional on offense. This requires a lead from the offense, in order to set up a necessary comeback by the Texans.

Bengals-Texans Prediction

This game should be close throughout, with neither team putting it away early. It is a toss-up, but I have to go with the Texans and their experience on offense. Yates is young, but he has Foster in the backfield, and Andre Johnson at receiver.

Texans 24 | Bengals 21

**********

Texans-Bengals Game Info
  • Bengals-Texans Date, Time, and TV: Saturday, January 7th at 4:30 on NBC
  • Bengals-Texans Point Spread: Texans -3
  • Bengals-Texans Over-Under: 39
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