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(6) Cincinnati Bengals at (3) Houston Texans
The Texans are limping into the playoffs. Houston has lost three out of four games and has dropped two straight to the Vikings and Colts. The Texans offense is one of the most balanced attacks in the league led by Arian Foster, who rushed for over 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. Matt Schaub is coming off a very good year in which he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. Schuab threw for over 4,000 yards, 1,598 of those yards going to star wideout Andre Johnson.
Houston's defense has been superb most of the year, and Wade Phillips' unit has one of the strongest front sevens in the league. It is ranked in the top 10 in yardage allowed and gives up only 20.2 points per game.
If there is a weak link to the Houston defense, it is its secondary. The Texans are ranked 16th in the league in passing yardage allowed and have given up 27 touchdowns through the air.
Cincinnati had a very quiet 10-win season and is looking for revenge for the drubbing it received from Houston in the playoffs last season. Andy Dalton threw for over 3,600 yards and tossed 27 touchdowns. Dalton's main target is A.J. Green. Green had a tremendous second season as a pro, catching 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 scores.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis proved to be a great signing for the Bengals. The Law Firm rushed for almost 1,100 yards and six touchdowns.
Cincinnati's defense is one of the most underrated units in the league; it is sixth in the league in yards allowed and gave up 20.2 points per game. It also recorded 44 sacks and 26 turnovers. Geno Atkins is the anchor on the defensive line and can plug holes and also rush the passer.
The Bengals are coming into the playoffs much hotter than the Texans. The Bengals have won seven of eight and have a bit of experience under their belt from last season. Houston hasn't played great as of late, but still has the better playmakers on both sides of the ball.
The game will come down to the quarterback play. A.J. Green will find plenty of holes in Houston's secondary, but the lack of playmakers around him will doom the Bengals. Arian Foster will find a way to get 100 yards on the ground, and Houston will prevail 23-16.
(5) Indianapolis Colts at (4) Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens defense has been riddled with injuries, while the offense has been riddled with inconsistency. Baltimore has lost four of five and are hoping to have Ray Lewis back for this game. Joe Flacco had a solid season, but it was also a roller-coaster season. Flacco threw only 22 touchdowns, and the offense sometimes relied on his arm too much. Ray Rice had another outstanding season, recording over 1,600 all-purpose yards and 10 scores.
Flacco has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith combined for over 1,700 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns.
The defense has been suffering from the injury bug all season. Terrell Suggs started the year injured, and once he recovered from his torn Achilles, Ray Lewis went down with a torn biceps muscle. Lewis has been rumored to return for the past couple of weeks and should be able to play against the Colts.
The Ravens gave up over 360 yards per game, but only let up an average of 21.7 points per contest. This was in part due to the 25 turnovers forced by Baltimore during the season. Haloti Ngata is a force in the middle of the line, and Andrew Luck better keep an eye out for Ed Reed.
The Colts have been one of the best stories of this season. After a 2-14 season, the firing of their head coach, the departure of the greatest player in their franchise's history and the loss of their new head coach for most of the year, the Colts managed to win 11 games.
Andrew Luck is in the running for the Rookie of the Year award. Luck threw for over 4,300 yards and 23 touchdowns in his rookie campaign and led numerous game-winning drives. Luck's presence revitalized Reggie Wayne, who caught over 100 passes for 1,315 yards.
The Colts running game struggled, as Vick Ballard and Donald Brown combined for over 1,300 yards and only two scores. The single blemish on Luck's impressive season is that he threw 18 interceptions and has not been as productive on the road as he has been at home.
The Colts defense is mediocre at best. Indianapolis has surrendered over 375 yards per game and 24 points per game. The Colts have only gotten 13 turnovers all season. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will have to put pressure on the quarterback and force some turnovers.
The Colts have been arguably the biggest surprise of the 2012 season, and a win in Baltimore wouldn't stun anybody, but Luck will struggle against the Ravens defense and might throw a pass or two to Ed Reed. The Colts allowed an average of 140 yards per game on the ground, and Ray Rice should have a field day. Baltimore is very good at home, and Indianapolis is average on the road.
The Ravens will advance, 27-17.