The Houston Texans, at one point arguably the best team in the AFC, capped a 12-win season by losing three of four to conclude the regular season. The Cincinnati Bengals rebounded after a 3-5 start to win ten games with a 7-1 record during the second half of the season. It's caused a relatively interesting reaction from NFL experts attempting to forecast this weekend without the use of the Doppler 12,000 in HD.
Whereas one may pick the Texans because they won 12 games and beat the Bengals last year (twice), others may pick Cincinnati based on the respective momentum between both teams. Let's just say people are just as likely to pick the weekend's first playoff game with a coin flip.
Elliot Harrison with NFL.com gives the Bengals an 11-point win.
There, I said it, OK? The Houston Texans have struggled too much for my taste. The Cincinnati Bengals have won seven of their past eight games and present some matchup problems. The right side of the Houston offensive line is a problem. That's not swell, considering Cincy sits just one sack shy of the NFL lead with 51 on the season. Matt Schaub has not handled adversity too well over the past several weeks, at least not in the pocket. Schaub has posted passer ratings under 75 in three of the past four games. Cincinnati has had its own problems protecting Andy Dalton, who hasn't exactly been lighting the world on fire over the last month, either.
So, who will fare better? My sense is that Dalton will, even on the road. The Texans are allowing opposing quarterbacks a 96.7 passer rating over the past four games, including an awful 9:1 TD-to-INT ratio. Can Arian Foster pick up the slack for Schaub? Maybe. If you throw out Week 17's largely inconsequential game versus the Baltimore Ravens, the Bengals' defense hasn't given up 100 yards rushing on the ground since Week 11. The pass defense last allowed 300 yards passing in Week 2. The Houston offense has a tough task.
Defense vs. defense.