Heading into the wild-card round of the playoffs, both AFC home teams this weekend head into the postseason as losers of three straight games.
Unlike the Broncos, however, the Texans clinched the division and their first-ever playoff berth before their losing skid. That said, they would have certainly preferred to head into the postseason with some positive momentum instead of a three-game losing streak.
The Bengals, who clinched a playoff berth last week despite losing to the Ravens, lost their first matchup to the Texans and have struggled to beat teams with a winning record. In seven games against teams with a winning record, the Bengals won only one of them and it was over the 9-7 Titans.
For the entire playoffs, all of the EDSFootball.com contributors including myself will make a prediction (including the final score) for each playoff game.
Here are the predictions from the EDSFootball.com crew for the the Texans-Bengals game:
Earlier in the year, Houston edged Cincy 20-19 in an incredible game that came down to two long touchdown drives by T.J. Yates, including one in the final moments. It was a road game for Houston and this, of course, will be in Houston. Cincinnati has had an unexpectedly good season. With a rookie quarterback that few people were talking about, most people were predicting a disastrous season for the Bengals. Dalton has been solid all year, though, and would likely get rookie of the year consideration if not for Cam Newton's year. They also have a formidable defense, ranked 7th in the league in yards and 9th in points allowed. I think that the Bengals are the sexy pick here, especially with Houston losing three games in a row heading into the playoffs, but I'm taking the Texans to advance. Although injuries to Arian Foster, Mario Williams, Matt Schaub, and Andre Johnson throughout the year have kept this team from playing at full strength at any point, they still managed to win the division and lock up the three seed. Though not a typical powerhouse, I believe Houston could have been a force to be reckoned with and would have made some real noise if not for all their injuries. I still think they'll have enough to get by Cincy this weekend, though. I expect a relatively close game, Houston 24 Cincinnati 19.
Sean: Houston Texans 24, Cincinnati Bengals 17
I love the Texans at home in this one. They have a pair of running backs who eclipsed the 1,000 yard (from scrimmage) mark for the season, and most importantly a strong defense for really the first time in franchise history. Gary Kubiak's job was saved this year by Wade Phillips. If Houston was fully healthy, they would be the team to beat in my opinion in the AFC. They are strong across the board at every facet of the game. With T.J. Yates at QB though, this will limit the Texans chances to go deep in the playoffs. With this being Houston's first ever home playoff game, I expect them to come out strong, plus the Bengals are 1-6 versus teams with a winning record this year. Kudos for a great season for Marvin Lewis and the Bengals, but it's the end of the road for them in Houston.
Dan: Houston Texans 17, Cincinnati Bengals 14
The first matchup of the 2012 playoffs may contain the least amount of fireworks on paper, but if you like physical, defensive, throwback smash mouth football then this is the game for you. The Texans and Bengals met on December 11th, with the Texans going on a late drive to win 20-19, which was Houston's last victory. The No. 2 rush offense for Houston managed to hang 144 yards on the No. 10 ranked rushing defense that allows an average of 3.9 yards per carry. The Texans boast the No. 3 ranked pass defense this year, and I would expect for Jonathan Joseph to lock up stellar rookie AJ Green. The Bengals just do not have the offensive power to match the Texans defense, and T.J. Yates with Andre Johnson will pull out just enough to get their first playoff win. The pick is the Texans, 17-14.
Steve: Houston Texans 13, Cincinnati Bengals 7
As if it hasn’t been said enough yet, but the only winning team the Bengals have beaten were the Titans. The Texans are playing their 3rd string quarterback in TJ Yates and have lost three straight games and not to mention, the Texans just brought in Jake Delhomme. The Texans will play it close to the vest and not put Yates in a position that could lose them the game. Ultimately, this game should follow closely to the Week 14 game that the Texans won 20-19, with Yates at QB. Look for lots of Foster and just enough Andre Johnson for the Texans to move the chains, while the defense shuts down the Bengals altogether.
Kevin: Houston Texans 14, Cincinnati Bengals 13
The three-game losing streak to close the season is a concern for the Texans. In addition, I worry about the adrenaline of the Texans' players, who may try to do too much in the franchise's first-ever playoff game. That said, the Texans have the league's best running back tandem in Arian Foster and Ben Tate, who combined for more than 2,100 rushing yards on the season. In fact, the duo has nearly 2,900 yards from scrimmage this season. With Andre Johnson able to play more snaps this week than last week, the offense will be a little more dynamic than it's been since T.J. Yates has taken over for the injured Matts. The Texans have the second-best overall defense and the fourth-best scoring defense in the NFL, which means that Yates won't have to do too much and the Bengals will struggle to move the ball. I have the Texans winning by one point again as the Bengals were 0-7 against teams that made the playoffs this season.