The Cincinnati Bengals continue their unexpected season in Houston as they appear in the playoffs for the second time in three years. Rookie QB Andy Dalton has been excellent this season for a team that was thought to be rebounding. He has amassed 3398 yards while passing for 20 TDs. In this game, Dalton must continue to be the smart guy that he is behind the center. He must value the football and take advantage of the few opportunities that he will be afforded against one of the toughest defenses in the NFL this year in the Houston Texans. Rookie WR AJ Green(1057 yards, 7 TDs) against stellar CB Jonathan Joseph should be a good matchup. TE Jermaine Gresham will be a mismatch for the Houston defense and he should also be a player to watch this game. Another key point this game for the Cincinnati offense will be the play of their offensive line and RB Cedric Benson. Benson had another 1,000 yard season this year and he must be effective in the run game because if he isn't, players like Texans DE JJ Watt will be all over Dalton and that won't be good.
QB T.J. Yates has been a Godsend for the Texans this year. After losing starting QB Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinhart for the year to injuries, most people thought that the Texans would fall quickly. Well, Yates and his poise kept the Texans afloat despite their current three game losing streak heading into the playoffs. Yates has been poised, but he isn't going to be the key this game. The key for this offense will be RB Arian Foster. He has been a monster running the football this year (1224 yards, 10 rushing TDs) and if I were them, I would run right at a Bengal defense that just let Ray Rice run wild against them last game. Yates will also be called upon to make some plays in the passing game. And its huge for the Texans that WR Andre Johnson is reasonably healthy after going through a couple hamstring injuries. He will no doubt be matched up with CB Nate Clements, who will be making his first playoff appearance in his 11 year career. That should be an interesting matchup between two veteran competitors. Another person you may want to watch is Houston TE Owen Daniels. He is also very vital to the Texans passing game.
As for how the game goes, expect this game to be in the high teens/mid-twenties at best because of the power of these two defenses. In the end, the Bengals will have more weapons, make more plays and are in a better flow than the Texans, who limped into the playoffs. Marvin Lewis finally gets his first win in the playoffs.
Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Houston 20