Jan 4, 2013, 1:43 PM EDT
By Elliott KALB
CINCINNATI (10-6) AT HOUSTON (12-4)
The Bengals finished the season 7-1.
The Texans finished the season 1-3.
The Bengals and Texans are meeting for the second consecutive year in a Wild Card game at Reliant Stadium. Houston won last year’s meeting 31-10. The Texans’ defense had four sacks, three interceptions and one touchdown– a 29-yard interception return by rookie DE J.J. Watt – against Bengals rookie QB Andy Dalton.
Matt Schaub will make his first start in a playoff game. Schaub saw action in the 2005 NFC Championship Game as a member of the Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia (1/23/05).
The Bengals have won four straight on the road and finished tied for the best road record in the NFL this season at 6-2.
The Bengals sack the quarterback a bunch — 51 times, which left them one shy of being part of a three-way tie for the NFL lead.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins had 12.5 sacks, a margin of 4.5 over second-place Ndamukong Suh of Detroit (8.0) for most in the NFL this year by an interior lineman.
But the Bengals have also allowed a lot of sacks. Andy Dalton has been sacked 19 times in the last four games.
This is how well Adam Jones has done for the Bengals.. At least according to Pro Football Focus, the Web site that grades every play. For his 608 snaps, it rates Jones the NFL’s 11th-best overall cornerback. And it has him rated seventh in pass coverage, which is telling for a guy on the field most of the time on third down. PFF has him for allowing just two touchdown passes on a defense that has allowed the third-fewest TD passes in the league with 16.
Biggest matchup of the game: Bengals LG Clint Boling and RG Kevin Zeitler vs. Texans DE J.J. Watt.
J.J. Watt led the Texans’ seventh-ranked defense with 20.5 sacks, 107 tackles, 39 tackles for loss, 42 quarterback hits, 16 passes defensed and four forced fumbles in 2012.
In order for the Bengals receivers to take advantage of a banged-up Houston secondary that allowed five touchdown passes of at least 34 yards in December for a defense that gave up first downs on 55 percent of its third downs in the last two games, the Bengals O-line must give quarterback Andy Dalton some time.
When the Bengals won four straight from Nov. 11-Dec. 2, they allowed a total of five sacks. Since then they’ve allowed five in one game and six in two others and the running game has been bad in the last two games averaging just 2.2 yards per 37 carries.
In the 13 games Pat Sims has missed the past two years, the Bengals have allowed 4.5 yards per rush. In the 19 games Sims has played, they’ve allowed 3.6. In the last two playoff games without him, they’ve been buried by the Jets and Texans with 171 and 188 rushing yards, respectively. At the most, he’ll play about 30 percent of the snaps. Maybe about 20 to 25 plays. He didn’t get off the physically unable to perform list (PUP) until halfway through the year. Of course, Cincy went 7-1 in the eight games with him.
Arian Foster ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s 31-10 Texans’ win over the Bengals in an AFC wild card game, including a 42-yard touchdown up the right sideline that featured a couple of missed tackles.
One reason for the Texans’ struggles is that the running game has gotten off to slow starts. In last week’s game at Indianapolis, Foster had only 23 yards in the first half.
Ironically, the Bengals’ worst game against the run was last week against Baltimore, as they allowed 206 yards. However, 65 of those were by quarterback Tyrod Taylor, mainly on option reads. Cincinnati will face more conventional and familiar backs this week in Foster and Ben Tate.
The Bengals Josh Brown will be kicking in his 10th postseason game Saturday. He has made 16 of 19 field goals in his playoff career, with the three misses coming from 49 yards or longer. His career long make in the postseason is 50 yards. His lone missed field goal this season was a 56-yard attempt at kicker-unfriendly Pittsburgh.
In the four games since Josh Brown signed with the Bengals on Dec. 6 when Mike Nugent strained his right calf, he has made all eight of his extra points and 11 of 12 field goal attempts, including the playoff berth-clinching 43-yarder to beat Pittsburgh 13-10 two weeks ago at Heinz Field.
The Texans couldn’t be thinner at inside linebacker heading into the playoffs. A day after the team put Darryl Sharpton on injured reserve, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips admitted Wednesday he’s “worried” about Tim Dobbins’ availability for Saturday.
Dobbins has been battling a shoulder problem during the last half of the season and was held out of practice Wednesday. Coach Gary Kubiak said the idea was to give Barrett Ruud more time with the first unit and also try to catch up Mister Alexander, who was re-signed to replaced Sharpton on the roster. (Ruud was signed earlier this year after Brian Cushing was lost for the season).
Texans radio analyst Andre Ware thinks the issue with the team’s offense begins up front with the right-side rotation of rookie guards Ben Jones and Brandon Brooks plus Antoine Caldwell and tackles Derek Newton and Ryan Harris.“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen or been a part of a team that has a (similar) rotation,” Ware said. “There’s no continuity on the right side. They can’t sustain drives because they can’t run the football effectively, and the defense has worn down because it has played so many snaps.”
Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who did not play against the Ravens on Sunday after straining a hamstring in pregame warm-ups, returned to practice Wednesday and was one of five players listed as limited on the injury report.
In his past four games, Matt Schaub has thrown exactly one touchdown pass. He hasn’t been playing particularly well of late. Now he gets a front four that sets up shop in opponents’ backfields. The Cincinatti defensive line has accounted for 42 of their franchise-record 51 sacks; there isn’t a weak link on this relentless front. Cincinnati’s defense has been afire down the stretch in general. In the Bengals’’ past eight games, they’ve allowed just 282 yards and 12.8 points per contest.
Dalton’s lifetime record at Reliant Stadium is 3-1; he won twice there in high school and once while playing for TCU in the 2007 Texas Bowl.
The Texans are 6-0 at home this season against AFC opponents.
The Bengals are 4-0 this year when Green-Ellis ran the ball at least 25 times and are 35-2 under Marvin Lewis when a Cincy running back gets that many carries.
Sunday Night Football TwitterView all »
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Tuesday morning one-liners http://t.co/gh2eGPACPl
Tony Romo out of OTAs after surgery to remove cyst from back http://t.co/EdZTepuRaL
Six-year-old rule rears its head for Seahawks and their rash of suspensions http://t.co/F2iQvHTqDi
Reshad Jones reconsiders, will attend Dolphins' OTAs http://t.co/WnYeZkvsNC
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Ray Rice's home burglarized http://t.co/QoaJY3ZoWg
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Pete Carroll on player issues: "We have to figure this out" http://t.co/0fX6gyghBS
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When I was a kid, nothing scared me more than a tornado. I can't comprehend what those children in Oklahoma endured today.
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Sunday Night Football Headlines
- NFL considers making the Pro Bowl “more like a game show”
- PFT Live: Chargers talk with Kevin Acee
- Kraft thinks South Florida should “pitch in” to improve stadium
- Brooks Reed learning to play inside if needed
- Pete Carroll says Russell Wilson “a million miles ahead” of last year
- Norv Turner on Brian Hoyer: He was released, he was available
- Goodson’s first hearing conflicts with Jets’ minicamp
- Practice snap counts back up even QB comp for Eagles
- Deonte Thompson getting noticed in Ravens receiver competition
- Mario Williams should brace for ugly fight over ring
- Pro Bowl
- Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
- Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
- Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
- San Fransisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks
- San Fransisco 49ers at New England Patriots
- Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
- Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
- Green Bay Packers at New York Giants
- New England Patriots at New York Jets
- Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
- Houston Texans at Chicago Bears
- Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons
- New Orleans Saints at Denver Broncos
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
- Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans
- San Diego Chargers as New Orleans Saints
- New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
- New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens
- Detroit Lions at San Fransisco 49ers
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
- Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
- Super Bowl