The sting of a blowout lost can either haunt or inspire a team. The Cincinnati Bengals has thought about their early exit of the NFL Playoff last year all season. Now, these young Thundercats has a golden opportunity to exercise their demons as they are fortunate to be able to go to the same place, be on the same stage and face the same team that did them in last season in the Houston Texans for Wildcard Weekend. This time, the Bengals are not just happy to get to the playoffs as they know what to expect, and the Texans are ripe for the picking. Revenge will be sweet for the Bengals.
Last season during the NFL Wildcard Weekend, the Bengals were a young bunch of players that overachieved as their once rookie quarterback Andy Dalton led his troops into Reliant Stadium to face the AFC South divisional champions. The Texans were recognized as the upcoming squad with legitimate hopes of reaching the Super Bowl. The Texans pounded the Bengals towards a 31-10 victory. Houston will use last season’s victory and this year’s repeated opportunity for another fresh start.
“We’re in the same exact spot we were last year, playing at home against Cincinnati,” said Texans’ Pro Bowl center Chris Myers. “One thing that we have on our side is that we’re playing in our home stadium and we’ve got to use that to our advantage. We’ve got to go into the playoffs with a fresh start.”
How The Bengals Will Win
Successful teams, normally, performs well when they enter the playoffs – hot. The Bengals have won seven out of their last eight contests, but wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16 and the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17 were their biggest victories of the season, for emotional reasons.
For young players, emotional wins play a huge role in their performance as they feel that they can beat anyone, which builds confidence. The Bengals feel that they are no longer the step-child to their divisional rivals in Steelers and Ravens now. Their emotions and confidence will carry over towards the Texans.
The Bengals are loaded offensively. Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green will have his hands full with Texans’ Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph once again, but with the emergence of wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Brandon Tate, to go along with tight end Jermaine Gresham, the Bengals will have some favorable matchups throughout the contest.
Despite being limited in practice for nursing his hamstring, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will provide that balance Dalton will need, something he did not have last season.
Why The Texans Will Lose
Texans’ quarterback Matt Schaub was exposed in Week 14 against the New England Patriots as the consistent pressure from the edges, topped with solid secondary play, by the Pats kept Schaub bottled up because he is not mobile and he could not hit his receivers. Since his game against the Patriots, Schaub has thrown only one touchdown pass.
That’s not good news for Schaub as the Bengals present the same threat. He will match up against a Bengals’ front four that are responsible for 42 of the 51 (franchise-record) sacks during the regular season, and in their last eight games, they have allowed 282 yards and 12.8 points per outing.
The once-hot Texans picked the wrong time to cool off as they lost three out of their last four games. Running back Arian Foster, who is a Pro Bowler, has been decent, not great, in the month of December. A year ago, Foster posted 153 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals in the win. Foster must have the same output in order for the Texans to have a chance, which will be tougher this time around.
Bengals’ head coach Marvin Lewis has his players on one accord and believing in his disciplined system, especially defensively with his defenders staying home and knowing their places in their zone packages.
Lewis and the Bengals realize what’s before them.
“Our guys realize that just being in the playoffs is not what we’re here for,” said Lewis. “We want to go win the championship. That’s what it’s all about. We’re starting over and we realize how critical that is.”
Cincinnati Bengals 24, Houston Texans 13