You can point to the Texans’ season long troubles at quarterback all you’d like. The fact is, this is a very difficult match up for the Bengals.
Cincinnati qualified with a 9-7 record. And right here and now let’s get this straight: the Bengals did NOT back into the playoffs. The games they won early in the year (a 6-2 start) counted just as much as the games they didn’t win at the end of the year. If you insist on using the phrase “backed in”, remember the St. Louis Cardinals allegedly arrived at the Major League Baseball playoffs in that fashion and look what happened this past Fall.
My concerns about the Bengals are two fold. 1: they failed to beat a team that either finished tied for or in sole possession of first place in any division this season. 2: the Bengals beat just one team all season with a winning record, the 9-7 Tennessee Titans. Against the best teams in the game, the Bengals were an ‘oh-fer’. Mix in the fact that they went 3-5 in the second half of the season, and defeated bottom feeders Cleveland, Arizona and St. Louis, and any football fan with a brain cell can see that this opening round game at Houston is anything but a ‘gimmee’.
But it is a winnable game. Actually, it’s a very winnable game.
Cincinnati’s rush defense, riddled by the Ravens in Sunday’s finale, must find a way to shore up quickly. The Texans offer a one-two punch of Arian Foster (in my opinion the best running back in the NFL) and an over sized Ben Tate. In the regular season game against Houston, the Bengals defense allowed them to rush for a combined 108 yards on 23 carries. When you mix in the 36 yards that rookie quarterback TJ Yates had, the Bengals allowed the Texans to rush for an average of 5.1 yards per carry. If they repeat that in Houston Saturday, they will lose. Making the Texans one dimensional will be job one. The Bengals must make Yates throw the ball. He did, 44 times against the Bengals back on December 11th. He was also sacked five times and hit ten times total. Conversely, the Bengals allowed Andy Dalton to only be hit three times and sacked just once.
Houston’s defense is stout. It features pass rushers like Connor Barwin and a secondary that has former Bengal Jonathan Joseph. It’s a defense that limited the Bengals to just 189 passing yards and just 285 yards of total offense. In contrast, the Texans torched the Bengals defense for 412 yards of total offense.
By all accounts, the Bengals deserve to be in the playoffs, thanks to their total body of work this season. But their season will last just one more game, unless they can correct the things that beat them the first time they played the Texans and unless they can finally beat one of the better teams in the NFL
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