Originally written January 02, 2013 on WhoDeyFans:
Vegas might be considering the Texans to be a 4.5 point favorite to win Saturday’s game, but you might not know that given some of the talk whirling around the interwebs. More than a few non-Bengals-oriented sites are lining up the Texans’ recent losing skid against the Bengals’ strong second half of the season and coming to a different conclusion from the odds-makers. A honest assessment says that this should be a good game and could go either way. (That’s what we want in a post-season game, right?) Both teams are good, particularly on defense. And neither team is executing as they would like on offense. They game will come down to which way a handful of plays swing. The Bengals can be on the winning side of those plays if… Jermaine Gresham exploits Houston’s depleted linebacker corps. Despite Brooks Reed looking to get back on the field this week, the Texans’ mid-fielders have been battling the injury bug. That spells a big opportunity for Gresham, who has done a much better job of commanding the middle of the field this season. Taking advantage of a defense that is a little soft in the middle and paying extra attention to A.J. Green will be the spark that the offense has been lacking the past few weeks. And along that same theme… Andrew Hawkins makes his presence felt. Our interest will naturally be drawn to the matchup of AJ vs JJoe. [AJ went 10/106 in their two games last year.] Same for the Texans’ defense. With a little creativity and timeliness from Jay Gruden, Hawkins could remind us why he draws comparisons to Wes Welker at times. The offensive line gives Dalton a little time. Much like the Bengals, the Texans will rely on their pass rush to disrupt Dalton and break down the offense. Expecting the line to look as solid as it did a month ago is setting yourself up for big disappointment. But they need to improve their play just enough to give Andy a little bit more time and room, leading me to the next point… Andy Dalton stays calm and collected. If we’ve learned anything about Dalton in the last month, it’s that he is far less effective when he has one eye on the pass rush. (That’s true of most all QBs though.) He has to stay in that zone where he is in command of the game and be okay with taking a few shots, because he will whether he wants to or not. The defense makes life hard on Arian Foster. The Texans live by the run, so they Bengals will have to make them die by the run. The more we are hearing the names of Peko and Sims, the better. Force Matt Schaub to live up to his Pro Bowl selection. (The best way to do that is with an early lead.) Andre Johnson will likely get his, but he can’t do it all on his own. Keep the ball in Schaub’s hands and watch the D-line feast on him.
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