Cincinnati Bengals (10-6 SU, 9-6-1 ATS) vs. Houston Texans (12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS)
NFL Football Playoffs Wildcard Week
Date/Time: Saturday January 5th, 2012. 4:30PM Eastern
Where: Reliant Stadium Houston, T.X.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Bengals +4.5/Texans -4.5
Over/Under Total: 43
Almost exactly a year ago, the Cincinnati Bengals had the opportunity to end the NFL’s longest postseason drought against the Houston Texans. Instead QB Andy Dalton threw 3 interceptions in a 31-10 loss and kept the Bengals from yet another postseason victory. This Saturday the Cincinnati Bengals will have yet another shot to end a 23 year postseason winless streak when they meet the Houston Texans once again inside Reliant Stadium in the first week of NFL postseason action.
However, the Houston Texans will enter this Saturday’s match-up as 4.5 favorites over Cincinnati following a solid 12-4 campaign this year. It can be argued that the Texans may be the most solid team in the AFC on both sides of the ball. Houston ranks 7th in the NFL in both total offense and defense. Offensively, Houston has their version of the “Big 3” in QB Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster, and wide receiver Andre Johnson.
Schaub has posted solid numbers this season by hitting 64% passing for 4,008 yards with 22 scores and 12 picks. Of course WR Andre Johnson is Schaub’s go to guy in the passing game. Johnson has had a tremendous season that has been overshadowed by Calvin Johnson’s ridiculous numbers in Detroit. Still Johnson has caught 112 passes for 1,598 yards (2nd in NFL) and 4 touchdowns already this season. Johnson’s ability to stretch the field will be critical this Saturday against a talented Bengals defense that has given up just 320 total yards (6th in NFL) per game.
The guy that may play the biggest role for the Texans offense this week may be running back Arian Foster (351 carries, 1,424 yards, and 15 touchdowns). The Texans have typically maintained a strong rushing offense for the last several years with Foster, their prized star, in the backfield. In recent weeks, the running game has not been a big factor and could be accredited as one of the major reasons the Texans lost 3 of their final 4 games this year. It will be important for Houston to get Foster going in this game to sustain those long drives that have been missing in recent weeks.
Cincinnati on the other hand will need a few things to go their way in effort to end that postseason winless streak. The Bengals may be an underdog in the eyes of odds makers and the betting public. However, the Bengals have been playing some really strong football and they closed out the season by winning 7 of their final 8 games. The Bengals defense should be given the credit for the majority of that success. Cincinnati has not allowed more than 20 points in any of those 8 games and have given up just 12.75 points on average during that stretch. If the defense can get some help, the Bengals could easily pull off the upset.
For the defense to get the help needed, I believe QB Andy Dalton has come up with a solid performance. Remember Dalton threw 3 picks in last year’s playoff loss to the Texans and he has to avoid those turnovers again this week. Inconsistency has been an issue with Dalton who has thrown 27 scores compared to 16 picks. Luckily Dalton has one of the greatest young talents in the league to target in the passing game in WR A.J Green. Green has a rare blend of speed and amazing hands to come down with big catches. Green has caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 scores this season.
If Dalton and company can come up with a few plays to put points on the board, the Bengals should be in contention. Fortunately for Cincinnati fans, Houston has struggled at times this year against the pass which should shed some light on their chances to move the football effectively. However, the Bengals have lost 4 straight to the Texans over the last 4 meetings and failed to cover the spread in their last 5 consecutive meetings. Therefore, the Bengals need a “few” things to go their way to break a couple of those streaks I alluded to previously.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I see two offenses that are struggling heading into this first round match-up and believe the defenses will stand strong to keep the total under the 43 mark. Go with the best play here and take the under 43!
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