What's Next for the Houston Texans After Wild Card Win?

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2013

Jan 5, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans running back Arian Foster (23) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter of the AFC Wild Card playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Reliant Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans defeated the Cincinnati Bengals at home to get Wild Card Weekend kicked off, winning by a score of 19-13.

Arian Foster totaled 174 yards and one touchdown (140 on the ground and 34 through the air), and the Texans defense held the Bengals to just 207 yards on offense.

So, what did we learn about the team on Saturday, and what's next?

What We Learned

The Texans will go as far as Foster and the defense will carry them, pure and simple.

Saturday represented Matt Schaub's first career start in the playoffs, and it wasn't pretty. Despite the fact that he had plenty of time to throw, Schaub put forth an underwhelming effort, 

Sure, he competed 29-of-38 passes for 262 yards, but he only managed to find his wide receivers for eight completions while failing to throw a touchdown—not to mention his ill-advised pick-six to Leon Hall in the second quarter. 

Thankfully for Houston, Foster and his offensive line had their way with the defense of the Bengals.

On the other side of the ball, Houston dominated the Bengals offense, especially in the trenches. 

J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and the rest of the men on the line put pressure on Andy Dalton all game long, forcing him into a costly interception (Johnathan Joseph) in the third quarter that ended up sealing the game.

Dalton finished the game having completed less than half his passes, and he and his offense never once sniffed a chance at a touchdown.

Unfortunately for Houston, the team on its radar for next week's divisional-round tilt isn't going to be so easy to defeat.

What's Next

The Texans will now hit the road to face the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium—the same team that stomped them 42-14 just four weeks ago.

Schaub will need to be sharper next weekend, because we know from experience that Tom Brady and his offense are going to put up some serious points on the scoreboard. 

Not only are the Patriots a much stronger opponent than the Bengals, but the Texans will be on the road.

The last time these two teams met, the Patriots held Foster to just 46 yards on 15 carries. And though he did manage to score a touchdown, Foster was mostly a non-factor, and Schaub struggled badly, as a result. 

On the flip side, Brady threw for four touchdowns, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen went off for 112 yards and a touchdown and the Patriots offense demoralized the Texans defense all game long. 

If the Texans are to move on to the AFC Championship game, they'll need to play much sharper on both sides of the ball than we've seen this past month. 

Looking Ahead

Should the Texans beat the Patriots in the AFC divisional round, Houston will either hit the road again to face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos or will host either the Baltimore Ravens or Indianapolis Colts

The Colts and Ravens will play this Sunday to see which team will travel to face the Broncos in the divisional round. 

Of the three possible teams the Texans could face, it seems the Ravens present the easiest challenge, given the fact that Houston demolished Baltimore by a score of 43-13 back in Week 7. In that contest, the Texans forced Joe Flacco into two interceptions while Schaub and Foster both had big games. 

The Colts split the seasonal series with the Texans, and rookie Andrew Luck played well in both contests, throwing four touchdowns and zero interceptions in those two games. 

Should the Broncos defeat the Ravens or Colts next weekend, setting up a home game against the Texans, Denver would have won its last 12 games—not a situation that bodes well for Houston.

The road to New Orleans doesn't get any easier for the Texans, but championships are never easily won. Stay tuned to Bleacher Report for all your NFL playoffs coverage, and we'll keep you updated on all the latest news.

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