It's like déjà vu. Almost a year ago to the day, the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals met at Reliant Stadium for what became the Texans' first playoff win in franchise history. Many things have changed in such a short span of time, but one thing remains the same—the Texans and Bengals will meet again in an AFC Wild Card Game.
The Texans beat the Bengals 31-10 behind an energetic young defense and 153 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Arian Foster. The Bengals weren't even expected to make the playoffs last year. With then-rookie QB Andy Dalton at the helm, a mere playoff appearance exceeded expectations.
Appearances aren't enough anymore. The 2012 Bengals made some key changes to their roster which they hope will help them into the playoffs. This year's team has higher expectations.
The Bengals' standards have been raised largely due to the 7-1 record the team posted to end the season and qualify for the No. 6 seed in the AFC. All three facets of the team contributed to that record, but none more so than the defense.
Behind veteran leadership from DT Geno Atkins and DE Michael Johnson, combined with the gap-stuffing abilities of MLB Rey Maualuga and LB Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals have held their opponents to 13.5 points per game since the bye.
This boost on defense came at an opportune time because the team's offensive performance waned towards the latter quarter of the season. The Bengals offense benefited from having several different flashes of brilliance at various points this season.
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis had three games in which he accumulated 100-plus yards. The passing attack was featured when WR A.J. Green went a franchise-record nine straight games with a touchdown reception. Mohamed Sanu had a three-game stretch in which he caught four touchdowns. However, rarely have these great performance happened simultaneously.
In order for the Bengals to leave Houston victorious, these three players need to show up and bring their A-games...