For the second time in three years and for the first time as a wildcard team, the Cincinnati Bengals are going to the playoffs. They are set to go on the road to Houston where they take on the Texans on Saturday afternoon. The Texans were able to battle back after trailing by a score of 16-3 at halftime and defeat the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 14.
In every game there is that one player who has the potential to change the outcome all by himself and this game is no different. Here's a player from both teams who has the ability to change the outcome of Saturday's game.
Texans X-Factor: Andre Johnson
I don't have to tell you that Andre Johnson is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. He's physically dominating and has the potential to change any game he plays in. He stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 226 pounds (which means he weighs a lot more than the Bengals corners -- Nate Clements weighs in at 200 pounds and Adam Jones weighs 188) and he has the speed to be a deep threat. He's coming off three straight 1,000-yard seasons but will fall short this season because of a hamstring injury that has held him out for more than half of the season.
Johnson didn't play in Week 14 when the Bengals hosted the Texans, but he will be playing on Saturday and it makes you wonder if the Bengals secondary is good enough to cover him. The Bengals' best cornerback, Leon Hall, went down with a torn Achilles in Week 10 and was placed on IR. Now, Nate Clements and Adam Jones are the teams' starting cornerbacks and it's likely that one of these guys will be covering Johnson one-on-one at some point during the game.
Johnson has the potential to dominate the Bengals secondary which means he has the potential to change the outcome of the game on Saturday.
Bengals X-Factor: Carlos Dunlap
One way to limit the damage that Johnson can do to the Bengals secondary is to make sure that quarterback T.J. Yates doesn't have time to sit in the pocket and find his No. 1 receiver. Any quarterback in the NFL can pick apart a secondary if he's given the time to sit around and watch for his guys to get open and Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap has the potential to make sure that doesn't happen.
Like Johnson, Dunlap sat out of a handful of games this season due to a hamstring injury, and he also missed the Week 14 game against the Texans. He is the Bengals best pass rushing defensive end and if he can find a way to be in Yates' face every time he dropps back, the Bengals won't need to worry nearly as much about Johnson and it will free up some of the players in the secondary to do different things.
Dunlap's sack count is down this season than it was from his rookie season but before he injured his hamstring against the Titans in Week 9, he was doing an excellent job at rushing the passer and was ranked as the league's best 4-3 defensive end by ProFootballFocus.com. If Dunlap can play like that again, the Bengals defense will be much better off.