Cincinnati vs. Houston: 10 Houston Texans Under Most Pressure in Wild Card Round

Mike KernsCorrespondent IIIJanuary 5, 2012

With the dawning of a new age in Houston Texans history, it is finally time to talk about something long past due—the playoffs. With this, I proclaim the end of the first age and the beginning of the second age. With this comes previewing a playoff matchup. I feel I have waited an eternity for this. Now that it's here, I'm not sure how to write it.

To say that players like Arian Foster, Andre Johnson and Johnathan Joseph have to have a good game this Saturday against the Cincinnati Bengals for the Texans to win is an understatement. So I'm going to change it up a little and focus on a handful of guys that will be facing the most pressure in the Wild Card Round and why.


For an in-depth preview of the Texans first playoff game ever, be sure to check out a special edition of the "Luv Ya Steel Blue" podcast here and subscribe to us on iTunes.


Neil Rackers

For those who can't remember, Neil Rackers was available to the Texans because of his epic collapse in the playoffs. Sure, the guy has played in the Super Bowl, but he is more remembered for the chip shot kicks that he missed in a playoff game against the Green Bay Packers the year before signing with Houston.

He's only kicking 60 percent in the NFL postseason for his career in six games. If the game comes down to his leg on Saturday, there are going to be a lot of nervous Texans fans.

Jason Allen

This has really been no big secret. Allen has had games where he looks like he's figured it out and even pulls down an interception. Then, he'll follow it up with a game like the one against the Miami Dolphins or against the Oakland Raiders, and he just gets abused constantly.

With Johnathan Joseph working on A.J. Green, Allen is likely to draw Jerome Simpson along with a lot of pass attempts from Andy Dalton. Allen is going to get beat more often than not, but he needs to make some plays on the ball and go for the home run.

This is a contract year for him, so raising some eyebrows in the playoffs couldn't hurt while shopping himself in free agency.

Antoine Caldwell

Hopefully, Caldwell isn't going to see too much time on the offensive line. With the reports out of camp coming in positive on the recovery of Mike Brisiel, the talking heads are saying he should be available for 85 percent of the snaps. That means Caldwell is going to have to look better than he has the past three weeks.

He almost got T.J. Yates decapitated on the first offensive play from scrimmage last Sunday, and that isn't going to help keep him around in the future or crack the rotation. He needs to live up to his draft status, something that he has yet to do.

Kareem Jackson

This is like hoping for rain in the Sahara right here. Kareem has showed me nothing the past six weeks that make me believe that he is going to show up for this game. Even when he does have good coverage, which is almost never, he doesn't turn around and look for the ball.

Just like Allen, he is going to see a lot of passes thrown his way while covering Jerome Simpson. This game could mean a ton to how the team regards him when camp rolls around again in August.

Matt Turk

Everyone let out the same exasperated sigh when it was announced that the Texans would be bringing back veteran Matt Turk after Brett Hartmann's injury.But the fact remains that Hartmann averaged 44.0 yards per punt while Turk has averaged 42.4 yards per punt.

Sure, a fresh leg might have contributed to that number, but it still counts, and after only four games, his leg is still fresh. But if the guy wants an opportunity to find a job in the league next year, he can ill-afford one of his now famous shank punts that goes for 19 yards.

Jacoby Jones

It seems like this guy has been on every one of these kinds of lists this season. That is what happens when you underachieve after signing a decent-sized contract. But the one thing that Jacoby has improved on this year is returning punts and not putting the ball on the ground.

With his contract not being guaranteed after this season, he should avoid fumbling the ball in a big situation this Saturday if he's hoping to play that contract out in Houston.

Eric Winston

This one seems to get mixed criticism amongst Texans fans. Some think that he has played great and others are ready to drive him out of town and draft his replacement this April. I'm kind of in the middle, as I'm willing to criticize him for his bad play, but also commend him for his good play.

He didn't become a member of arguably the best offensive line in football by accident. But he needs to do a better job in quarterback protection. This team cannot lose another quarterback at any cost. If Winston wants to see no offensive linemen taken by Houston in the early rounds this spring, he needs to play a good game Saturday.

Kevin Walter

I realize that Kevin Walter does a lot of things that don't show up on the stat sheet. I would never argue that, and those kinds of intangibles are hard to find in this league at the wide receiver position. But Walter does happen to be making a lot of money next year, and it is no longer guaranteed.

He needs to make some plays catching the ball this Saturday, and the return of Andre Johnson should see him having some open looks more than not. He must capitalize if he doesn't want to become a cap casualty next season.

T.J. Yates

Was there any doubt that he would be on this list?

Regardless of what the Matt Schaub detractors believed, Yates had little to no shot of supplanting him as the starter headed into the 2012 regular season. But what he can do, and possibly has already done is show that he deserves to be the number one backup option to Schaub over Matt Leinart.

But if he comes out and wets the bed this Saturday and costs the Texans the game, it could be a long offseason for Yates. No one is asking him to be Tom Brady on Saturday, they're just asking for him not to be...well, Matt Leinart.

Gary Kubiak

This guy had to be leading this list, right? With everyone expecting a contract extension for Kubiak, we've still heard nothing about it yet. Bob McNair isn't the kind of guy to go into a season with his coach in a lame duck situation.

Now, to drop this game at home against a team that you should beat could go a long way in leaving a bad taste in McNair's mouth headed into the offseason.

If the Texans come out, play one hell of a game and simply get beat by a team that played better, that's one thing. But if they come out lackadaisical, with a vanilla game plan, and with the offense running conservative, as it has the past three weeks, and they lose, then we could have a situation on our hands.

Gary Kubiak needs to open up the playbook and call the offense like there is no tomorrow. Because there isn't. 

In the end, the aforementioned guys in the opening are going to have good games, most likely. That's why they're the stars of the team and it's expected. But if this small group of players can show up on Saturday, we could be looking forward to another first in Texans history—the second round.

Mike Kerns is a featured columnist for the Houston Texans at Bleacher Report. Feel free to follow him on Twitter and catch his latest Texans podcast at State of The Texans.


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