Of all four playoff games taking place this weekend, the least hyped game – Cincinnati at Houston – may be of the most interest to Pats fans. Why? Because there is a very good chance that the Patriots will be playing the Bengals in Foxboro a week from now.

 

#6 Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) at #3 Houston Texans (10-6)
4:30 ET on NBC
Television Announcers: Tom Hammond, Mike Mayock and Alex Flanagan
Radio Announcers: Howard David, Tony Boselli and Mark Malone

Opening Line: Houston favored by 3
Current Line: Houston favored by 4
Over/Under: 38 to 38½

 

By The Numbers:

Bengals Offense
21.5 points per game – 18th
319.9 yards per game – 20th
208.8 passing yards per game – 20th
111.1 rushing yards per game – 19th
22 turnovers – 9th

6.6 yards per pass attempt – 24th
57.6% pass completion – 23rd
21 passing touchdowns – 13th
14 interceptions thrown – 12th
79.6 quarterback rating – 16th
25 sacks allowed – 4th
167 yards lost on sacks – 5th

3.9 rushing yards per carry – 27th
10 rushing touchdowns – 21st
2 fumbles lost – 7th

Texans Defense
17.4 points per game – 4th
285.7 yards per game – 2nd
189.7 passing yards per game – 3rd
96.0 rushing yards per game – 4th
27 turnovers – 12th

6.2 yards per pass attempt – 2nd
51.9% pass completion – 1st
18 passing touchdowns – 6th
17 interceptions caught – 13th
69.0 quarterback rating – 2nd
44 sacks – 6th
287 yards lost on sacks – 6th

4.1 rushing yards per carry – 11th
8 rushing touchdowns – 3rd
5 fumbles recovered – 2nd

Texans Offense
23.8 points per game – 8th
372.1 yards per game – 13th
219.1 passing yards per game – 18th
153.0 rushing yards per game – 2nd
20 turnovers – 6th

7.9 yards per pass attempt – 7th
61.7% pass completion – 9th
20 passing touchdowns – 18th
9 interceptions thrown – 3rd
92.7 quarterback rating – 7th
33 sacks allowed – 12th
190 yards lost on sacks – 9th

4.5 rushing yards per carry – 8th
18 rushing touchdowns – 3rd
5 fumbles lost – 28th

Bengals Defense
20.2 points per game – 9th
316.3 yards per game – 7th
211.6 passing yards per game – 9th
104.7 rushing yards per game – 10th
22 turnovers – 22nd

6.8 yards per pass attempt – 9th
59.2% pass completion – 12th
21 passing touchdowns – 9th
10 interceptions caught – 26th
85.0 quarterback rating – 17th
45 sacks – 5th
277 yards lost on sacks – 9th

3.9 rushing yards per carry – 8th
14 rushing touchdowns – 20th
4 fumbles recovered – 7th

 

I haven’t been much of a believer in Cincinnati all season long. All year I felt their fast start was due to a favorable schedule and that we’d see the real Bengals in the second half of the season. Not surprisingly they went 3-5 in their final eight games; surprisingly they did manage to back into the playoffs. The biggest factor Houston has going for them is their running game, and that’s bad news for Cincinnati. Since week 10 the Bengals are allowing 4.7 yards per carry to opponent’s running backs and last week in a must-win game at home Ray Rice ran for 8.0 yards per carry, two touchdowns and 191 yards; altogether the Ravens torched them for 221 yards on the ground.

I don’t see a reason to believe that Arian Foster and Ben Tate won’t duplicate that success running the ball, and doing so makes the concern about T.J. Yates a moot point, the same way Joe Flacco and the Ravens passing game was an afterthought last week. Houston is averaging 6.57 yards on first down, setting themselves up for very favorable down and distance situations.

Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton is superior to Yates, but his numbers have dropped in the second half as opponents have more film on him; Dalton has completed more than 58% of his passes only one time since week 8. Defensively the Texans have allowed just three touchdowns in the first quarter over their last 18 games, and they have not allowed more than one touchdown in the second half in any of their last thirteen games. The Bengals have struggled in the Red Zone and I don’t see why that would improve today.

Finally, with Andre Johnson back in the lineup that should open things up a little bit for Houston. He’ll probably get about 40 to 50 snaps but his mere presence should be enough to help the Texans out of the funk they have been in for the last three weeks. The Bengals are 0-7 against playoff teams this year and after this game I expect that reord to be 0-8.

 

Prediction: Houston gets their first-ever playoff win while the Bengals streak of no playoff wins since 1991 continues in this rare playoff game featuring two starting rookie quarterbacks.
Texans 24, Bengals 16

I’d put two unit on the Texans minus three but only one unit on Houston minus four; I’ll guess over 38 but zero units on that number.

 

 

For more on this game from the viewpoint of those that follow them year round, check out these sites:

Houston Texans Team Site
Houston Chronicle
Texans beat writer previews the game: Texans 19, Bengals 17
A writer recounts the last time NFL playoffs were held in Houston. Buddy Ryan was the coaching the defense, the game was held in the Astrodome, and Joe Montana was the opposing quarterback. It was the third straight year for a gut-wrenching playoff loss by Houston.

 

Cincinnati Bengals Team Site
Cincinnati Enquirer
Dayton Daily News
Bengals beat writer’s preview: Bengals 23, Texans 20

 

 

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