Game: Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) at Houston Texans (12-4)
Time: 4:25 PM (ET)
Location: Reliant Stadium
Series Leader: Series tied, 3-3
Streak: Texans have won the past three
Coaches vs. Opponent: Lewis: 2-4. Kubiak: 4-0
Broadcast: NBC (4:30 PM ET): Dan Hicks, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan (Field reporter). Dial Global Radio: Tom McCarthy, Tony Boselli, Steve Tasker (Field reporter). SIRIUS: 88 (DGR), 92 (Cincinnati), 86 (Houston). XM: 88 (DGR), 225 (Cincinnati), 226 (Houston).
SB Nation: Battle Red Blog
NFL.com: Game Center
Weather: 53 degrees and party cloudy [Weather Underground]
BENGALS AT TEXANS HUB
Stories, previews, reports and updates regarding Saturday's wild card game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans.
Saturday marks the 8,400th day since the Cincinnati Bengals last won a postseason game, an advancing milestone expected much earlier during the Marvin Lewis regime. Cincinnati is also winless in franchise history on the road during the playoffs, including a 31-10 loss to the Texans in Houston last year.
The Bengals enter Houston coming off a 7-1 record during the second half of the season whereas Houston has lost three of their past four.
We honestly believe that the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals are two of the more similar teams in the NFL this year. Good defense, productive rushing offense, passable passing game. A couple of matchups we're looking forward to:
Kevin Zeitler vs. J.J. Watt
Huge. Just huge. The Bengals not only need to contain J.J. Watt, they need to ensure that his pressure doesn't force a panic-induced Andy Dalton scramble, which has more times than not led to quarterback sacks. Zeitler and Watt grew up one-mile apart, attended Wisconsin at the same time and they workout during the offseason together. Zeitler also knows that he needs to keep Watt on the ground. His pick-six at the line of scrimmage last year won the game for Houston.
Leon Hall vs. Andre Johnson
Traditionally Leon Hall lines up on the right side, but during the second half of the season, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has shifted Hall around. These two won't be battling on every play, but expect it to happen more than half of the time. Andre Johnson is clearly one of the best receivers in the game, having another great season with 112 receptions for 1,598 yards passing.
Bengals Defensive Line vs. Texans Offensive Line
According to Football Outsiders, no team had a more productive defensive line than the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half of the season. The Houston Texans offensive line has struggled recently, especially with the right side of the line where you can expect Carlos Dunlap to generate a pass rush. Geno Atkins bounces around Domata Peko, who is the team's de facto nose guard. Expect Zimmer to take advantage of match up opportunities for Atkins.
A.J. Green vs. Johnathan Joseph
Much like Hall and Johnson, these two probably won't go head-to-head during every snap in the game, but we suspect they'll get to know each other quickly.
1) Andy Dalton needs to step up. It's as simple as that. Except for his first-half performance against the Baltimore Ravens last week, Dalton has gone four straight games without a passer rating over 76.1. There is no deep threat and Houston has given up several big plays this season. Between Week 13-16, Dalton recorded a 3-5 touchdown to interception ratio and his overall accuracy and timing has been a tick off.
2) A.J. Green needs to be big-time. The threat of A.J. Green has argued the point that opposing defenses are rotating to him, stuffing his production in recent weeks. Green has scored only one touchdown in six straight games and he's only recorded one reception of 20 yards or more in the past five. But that doesn't matter as much as making sure he's involved early and often. Cincinnati's first-team offense struggled mightily against the Ravens last weekend in the first half, largely because Green wasn't targeted once for the first 29 minutes of the game. Two receptions during the final minute later and the Bengals tied the game with seconds remaining in the second quarter.
3) Combination of patience and protection. Andy Dalton is known for his premature scrambles, abandoning the pocket after his peripheral vision has been invaded with the shade of the opposing team's colors, despite solid protection. Pro Football Focus attributes nearly a quarter of Andy Dalton's sacks on the quarterback himself. On the other hand opposing defenses have sacked Bengals quarterbacks 46 times this season, so there are offensive line issues protecting Dalton. If the offensive line steps up to protect the quarterback and Dalton trusts them, he'll have the time to go through his progressions, which hasn't been a strength.
4) Stop Arian Foster before he gets started. The Cincinnati Bengals held Arian Foster to under 50 yards rushing when they hosted the Texans during Week 14 of the 2011 regular season. Cincinnati was in complete control of the game until the fourth quarter, when the Texans outscored Cincinnati 10-0, claiming the 20-19 win during the final seconds. During the rematch in the wild card round, Foster generated 153 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Stop Foster. Stop the Texans.
5) Score quickly. Take the fans at Reliant Stadium out of it early by scoring quickly. The Bengals have outscored opponents this year 113-42 in the first quarter, a 71-point differential, clearly their best period of the season.
Extra Point) Defense does what the defense does. Cincinnati's defense hasn't allowed an opening touchdown to the opposing offense this year, becoming the reason for the Bengals returning to the postseason in consecutive seasons for the first time in 30 years. Except for the meaningless season finale against Baltimore, the Bengals held opposing teams to 272.3 yards per game from Week 10-16. Additionally the Bengals rush defense recorded a franchise record 51 quarterback sacks. If the defense repeats a similar performance as they've shown in the second half of the season, the Bengals will win.
CHRIS CROCKER DOUBTFUL
Bengals starting safety Chris Crocker failed to practice the entire week, entering the weekend as doubtful according to the team's injury list. Typically during the regular season, teams may side with a more conservative approach, hoping to have a starter back later during the season. However this is win-or-go home playoff time and we have to believe conservative injury approaches are out the window.
Regardless. If Crocker is unable to play, Nate Clements would replace him. From week 13-16, Clements played 16 total defensive snaps, playing most of the game on Sunday against the Ravens, replacing the injured Terence Newman.
The Cincinnati Bengals opened this week as 4 1/2 point underdogs, exactly where they're at today.
|S Chris Crocker||Thigh||LP||DNP||DNP
|CB Jason Allen||Hamstring||LP||LP||LP
|LB Dan Skuta||Thigh||FP||FP||FP
|DT Wallace Gilberry||Illness||DNP||LP||FP
|RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis||Hamstring||LP||LP||FP
|S Taylor Mays||Hamstring||LP||LP||FP
|CB Terence Newman||Groin||LP||FP||FP
|G Antoine Caldwell||Back||DNP||DNP||DNP
|DB Alan Ball||Foot||LP||LP||LP
|FB Tyler Clutts||Abdominal||FP||FP||FP
|DT Shaun Cody||Back||LP||LP||LP
|TE Owen Daniels||Chest||LP||LP||LP
|LB Tim Dobbins||Ankle||DNP||DNP||--
|RB Justin Forsett||Knee||FP||FP||FP
|S Shiloh Keo||Ankle||FP||FP||FP
|T Derek Newton||Knee||LP||LP||LP
|WR DeVier Posey||Foot||FP||LP||FP
|OLB Brooks Reed||Groin||LP||LP||LP
|DE Antonio Smith||Ankle||LP||LP||LP
|G Wade Smith||Knee||LP||LP||LP
|RB Ben Tate||Foot||FP||FP||FP
|RB James Casey||Knee||--||FP||FP
|QB T.J. Yates||Elbow||FP||FP||FP
DNP - Did Not Participate
LP - Limited Participation
FP - Full Participation
Out = Player will not play
Doubtful = 25% chance a player will play
Questionable = 50% chance a player will play
Probable = 75% chance a player will play
(-) = Not Listed - No game status available