Yes, I know - All Bengals fans, players and coaches can't wait for Saturday to come soon enough so we can get the bad taste from last year off of our mouths. We are going to see a more determined and more confident Bengals team and our chances look better facing a slightly off-form Texans. But that said, here are this fan's key 5 points for a first playoff road victory:
1. Houston is in a slump (losses in 3 of last 4 games) but don't expect them to bend over. Their losses this year have been to Packers, Patriots, Vikings and Colts, all playoff teams. Moreover, they are itching to bounce back and it can happen any time. When they do bring their A game, they beat the likes of Denver and Peyton Manning. So, go into Saturday's game with a tough, gritty, no mistakes allowed mindset. Expect crowds in the indoor stadium to be as loud as last year, if not more.
2. Stop Arian Foster / Tate. If last year's game was any indication, they'll try to run the backs through the middle AND the edges, so play good run coverage and be prepared for both types of run. Shutting the run game down is also a bit more important when playing the Texans since a lot of their pass is good play action that leaves receivers open in the middle. DBs / LBs have to play tight coverage. Tackle well and tackle right the first time.
3. Win the O-line vs. Texans defense battle - I say Texans defense in total because its not just JJ Watt even though he is a significant trouble maker. You have Barvin, Manning and others that will be part of exotic blitzes. Pick them up and give Andy as much time in the pocket as possible.
4. Go back and watch how the 4 teams that beat the Texans neutralized their defense and scored big especially Green Bay and New England. They used a lot of quick snaps, throws and a variety of play calling. So, get the ball out quick, spread it out and include well rehearsed gadget plays to keep the defense on their toes and let the open man make the play. Play good fundamental football - establish the run game and in the passing game run good routes, get open and make catches!
5. Andy Dalton has to fire on offense this game unlike the last couple of games. The O-line and open receivers are key but Andy's checkdowns have to be good and he HAS to see the open man. There have been many times this season when he has missed seeing open receivers.
I think these are the big ones that stand in my mind. Sure, Andre Johnson is another big factor but I think our entire secondary is going to be careful not give the big plays after last year's burn (and this year's Antonio Brown burn against the Steelers).
If we do this and lay it all out there, this team is capable of going all the way, although I understand I am biased as a fan! :) WHO DEY!