Don Banks and Andrew Perloff are the only NFL writers at Sports Illustrated predicting that the Cincinnati Bengals will beat the Houston Texans this Saturday. Not that it's a big deal. Even with a third-string rookie quarterback, the Texans have one of the league's best rushing offenses and overall defenses. So we an understand their reasoning. However when those that predicted the Texans realize their mistake around 8 p.m. on Saturday, we'll be more than forgiving in their roles to make Cincinnati a greater underdog this weekend.
+ NFL.com's Pat Kirwan believes that this weekend's games will come down to two strong defenses, with the Texans "stuffing" Cincinnati's final drive to win 17-14.
Both of these teams defied convention, with the Texans weathering a storm of injuries and the young Bengals exceeding expectations to make the playoffs. This will be a tightly contested battle between two strong defenses, but Houston will earn its first postseason victory by stuffing the Bengals' final drive.
+ Jason Cole with Yahoo! Sports thinks that now isn't the time for the Cincinnati Bengals, most likely going one-and-done.
The Bengals are one of the great stories this season as rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green have come in to replace Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco, respectively, and lead the Bengals to the playoffs. For that reason, there is optimism in Cincy, although owner Mike Brown will find a way to dash it soon enough. However, much like Detroit, Cincinnati’s flaw is obvious: The Bengals struggled against their best competition. The nine wins were against non-playoff teams. The seven losses were against playoff teams. Of course, they have a good shot against damaged Houston, but it’s hard to see much more than a one-and-done.
+ Pete Prisco with CBSSports.com has the Bengals beating the Texans by three points:
This is a rematch from a Week 14 game when rookie T.J. Yates rallied the Texans from behind with a last-second touchdown pass to give Houston a 21-19 victory. The Texans haven't won since. They have struggled on offense and the defense has had its share of troubles. The Bengals went 2-1 since then. This should be a battle of rookie passers with Yates against Andy Dalton. The Bengals dominated the early part of the first game, so I think that will show up here again. The key will be Houston's second-ranked rushing offense against Cincinnati's 10th-ranked rushing defense. If the Bengals can stop Arian Foster, and put the pressure on Yates, they can steal a road playoff victory. The Texans were second in total defense, so Dalton faces a stiff challenge. This has the makings of a low-scoring tight game. I'll take the more experienced rookie quarterback, and that's Dalton.
+ Albert Breer of NFL.com writes:
To see how the Texans can win in the playoffs, let's go back two years. In January 2010, the Ravens, led by ailing quarterback Joe Flacco, came into Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots had never lost a playoff game. Easy pickings for New England? Not exactly. Ray Rice opened the game with an 83-yard touchdown run, Terrell Suggs strip-sacked Tom Brady three plays later, and it was curtains for the Patriots. Baltimore was able to pull off the upset because it dominated the line of scrimmage. If Houston can do the same, it will take pressure off rookie quarterback T.J. Yates and put pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. The good news for Houston is that the Texans have the horses on both sides of the ball to pull this off. Rice himself, along with the rest of the road-adverse Ravens, exposed some of the flaws in the Bengals' defensive front last week. If they can successfully control the line of scrimmage, Houston will, ironically, be bound for Baltimore.
+ John Clayton with ESPN writes that there is some pressure on Marvin Lewis to win this weekend, who is 0-2 in the post season.
The Bengals-Texans matchup features two coaches who had sensational seasons. Thanks to Carson Palmer's departure and decisions to get rid of Chad Ochocinco and not re-sign Terrell Owens, Marvin Lewis and the Bengals went young. No one expected them to be 9-7 and a playoff team, but Lewis navigated them to the playoffs with a rookie quarterback, a rookie wide receiver and a young, hungry defense.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak, under the pressure of losing his job if he didn't make the playoffs, revamped the defense with coordinator Wade Phillips and survived the losses of Mario Williams and his top two quarterbacks to give owner Bob McNair his first playoff team.
But making the playoffs is one thing. Winning a playoff game is another, so the pressure is on. Lewis is 0-2 as a playoff coach in nine seasons. A playoff victory would help win fans back.