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AFC Wildcard: Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans

 

The Cincinnati Bengals and Houston Texans meet in what should be a defensive battle. The Cincinnati Bengals defense led by DT Geno Atkins is currently among the best units in the game. They have not allowed more than 20 points in a game since Denver beat them back on November 4th, and have won 7 of the last 8 games.

Of course, some of that is their opponents as well. They got the Giants slide started, but controlling the Chiefs, Raiders, Eagles, and a Ravens team that started resting starters early helped. The Houston Texans have not been playing their best down the stretch. Early defensive injuries sapped this team, namely Brian Cushing. Brooks Reed has been out for most of the late stretch, trying to play only in the Minnesota game. He’s questionable for today’s contest but expected to play. Top cornerback Johnathan Joseph appears to finally be getting healthy at the right time as well.

On offense, both teams really rely on one receiver heavily in the passing game (Andre Johnson and A.J. Green), and the key may be who can get contribution from someone else on some big plays, or shut down the opponents’ top option.

When I looked at similar matchups for these teams, the road team did not fare well in these defensive matchups. Andy Dalton has left a lot of plays on the field in recent weeks, and while Matt Schaub has received criticism down the stretch for not having “it”, Dalton’s team has really won despite him not playing well. He’ll have to play well in this one for the Bengals to pull the mild upset. Houston has proven vulnerable at times to big pass plays. The question is whether Dalton can be the one to take advantage.

The Line: Houston by 4.5

The Pick: Houston 23, Cincinnati 16

[photo via USA Today Sports Images]

 

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