When Cincinnati Has the Ball:
Andy Dalton and A.J. Green had better be ready for one hell of a fight. As should the Cincinnati offensive line.
The Houston Texans do a great job getting after the quarterback, but they also succeed at stopping the run and defending the pass. As far as defenses go, there's not one in the AFC better all-around than Houston's squad.
The Bengals need a big game from Cedric Benson, but more than that they need a mistake-free game from rookie quarterback Dalton. A.J. Green will get open, even with Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning bracketing him. Dalton needs to pick his spots, working in Green within a rotation featuring the other receivers.
The Texans need defensive points if they hope to win this game.
When Houston Has the Ball:
With rookie quarterback T.J. Yates taking the reigns in the playoffs, the Texans know they need a big outing from their defense and the run game if they hope to win their first-ever playoff game.
Arian Foster and Ben Tate are a dynamic duo, but they will meet a brick wall in the Cincinnati defense. The Bengals' front four is very good, and very deep. They'll be able to line up and match the athletic ability of the Houston offensive line.
Cincinnati would love to rattle Yates, but they'll have little luck getting pressure off the edge. Instead look for pressure to come from defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who is a good matchup against guard Wade Smith.
Yates needs to play within himself—meaning no mistakes, no gambles and a solid, consistent effort.
Prediction: Cincinnati 21, Houston 17