This game is somewhat of a surprise playoff matchup.
Most people thought Houston was good enough to make the playoffs, but they also thought they would surely choke away the end of the season like they have in the past two seasons.
Cincinnati, on the other hand, wasn’t supposed to be this good this soon. Many people were dogging upper management in the offseason on how things are handled in Cincinnati. The team lost their starting quarterback and top two receivers from last year’s four-win club and were being led by two rookie players.
Andy Dalton and the Bengals, though, have surprised everyone and turned this team into a playoff-caliber franchise.
They got to this point on solid defensive play. The defensive unit at one point this season was the top-ranked defense in the league. Now they rank seventh and will be a huge reason why they can pull the upset in Houston.
Houston, like Cincinnati, has turned their defense around in just one season as well.
New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips turned the defense from a base 4-3 to a base 3-4, and that changed the whole culture on that side of the ball. Last year, the Texans ranked dead last in pass coverage. This year, they rank third in the entire league in pass defense and second in overall defense—even without star Mario Williams.
Also like Cincinnati, the Texans will be starting an unproven quarterback.
Rookie T.J. Yates will get the nod as the starter in today’s game. He was third on the depth chart coming into the year, but season-ending injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart in consecutive weeks put Yates into the starting role.
Many people thought this would be the end of the Texans, but Yates proved he’s no slouch.
In just his second start, he led the Texans on 83- and 80-yard drives in the fourth quarter to lead the Texans to a 20-19 victory over this same Cincinnati Bengals team on December 11th in Cincy. That win clinched the AFC South division title, and it also was the last time this Texans team won a game.
This game should be close to the end with two rookie quarterbacks starting, and the defense that can get some fourth-quarter stops will prevail and advance to the AFC divisional round.
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