NFL Playoffs Preview: Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

USATSI_8223582_154224518_lowresThe first playoff game following the 2012 regular season features a rematch from last year’s playoffs as the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Houston in hopes to avenge their loss against the Texans last season.

This year, the narrative is a bit different, but the goals remain the same. Last season, the Texans came into their first post season game in franchise history with T.J. Yates under center after both starter Matt Schaub and back up Matt Leinert went down with injuries. This time around Schaub is healthy and will be looking to make a name for himself in the playoffs for the first time in his career despite the Texans not ending the season as they had hoped.

The Texans had been a top of the AFC for much of the season, and needed a win against the Indianapolis Colts on the final weekend of the regular season to lock up home field throughout the AFC playoffs. Instead, they lost their third game in four, giving up an average of 31 points per game during those losses.

The Texans defense has had some success against the Bengals in the past, especially when it comes to rattling quarterback Andy Dalton. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Dalton has had the third most passes batted since entering the league (32) and five of them have come at the hands of J.J. Watt — who intercepted one of Dalton’s passes for an interception at the line of scrimmage in last year’s post season.

On the other side of the ball, the Texans are going to have to try to generate a passing game against one of the best pass defenses in the league. The Bengals front four have been fantastic at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks without any blitz packages from linebackers or the secondary.

Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap have combined for 30 sacks this season and the Bengals have given up the fewest touchdown passes while rushing only four this season.

Today’s game could come down to the Bengals ability to stop Arian Foster who had 153 yards and two touchdowns in last season’s post-season meeting. Keeping Foster at bay will be essential if the Bengals want to get the first road playoff win in franchise history. For the Texans, the front four will have to get pressure on Dalton and keep A.J. Green from making the big plays he’s been making all season long.

For more, check out Serena Winters’ pre-game report: