The Indianapolis Colts defeated the Houston Texans last Sunday. With a little help from the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, the Cincinnati Bengals are now faced with a rematch at Reliant Stadium for the first Wild Card matchup on Saturday.
The Wild Card game last year ended in a 31-10 Texans victory, as the home team visibly controlled the second half.
However, with the two teams meeting in the postseason this time around, the rematch has a much different feel.
The Houston Texans were the AFC’s juggernaut the first two-thirds of this season, capturing an 11-1 record as they headed into New England in Week 13.
Since their 42-14 blowout at the hands of an impressive Tom Brady, the Texans haven’t been the same team. The secondary has been battling injuries, and the offense has entered an uncharacteristic drought.
Those two things have been large reasons the Texans have dropped three of their past four contests.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now, having won seven of their final eight games during the regular season.
The last two wins against division rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore have to speak volumes for the young team’s momentum heading into the playoffs.
With veteran Matt Schaub struggling lately, the Bengals will be glad to have one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL this season. Led by interior lineman Geno Atkins, the group has created numerous sacks and immense pressure on opposing quarterbacks all year.
Who will win the first wild card playoff game?
If the Texans have one obvious strength in this matchup, it’s their running game. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are one of the best running tandems in the league, if not the best.
However, the Bengals boast a defense ready for almost anything. Under Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer this year, Cincinnati ranks 12th against the run and 7th against the pass.
Their scoring defense is equally impressive, as they have tendency to force field goals in the red zone. The have allowed more than 13 points just twice in their last eight games.
Andy Dalton and the offense have cooled off a bit during the last few games, as turnovers were starting to be a worry for Cincinnati. However, Dalton did pass for 278 yards against a strong Pittsburgh defense. Then in Baltimore he went 10-for-15 with 78 yards and a touchdown in the first half before the starters were taken out.
The running game for Cincinnati took a blow when BenJarvus Green-Ellis tightened his hamstring in pre-game warm-ups last week. He rushed for 100 yards in four of the last six games that he was a part of.
Despite his insignificant 14 yards against the Steelers, he is a player that the Bengals will definitely want to have for a postseason run.
In the playoffs, more times than not, the teams that make deep runs are the teams that are riding the most momentum coming out of the regular season. In this rematch, that team is the Cincinnati Bengals, and they should use a stout defense to defeat the sinking Houston Texans.
Prediction: Bengals 20, Texans 17