Unlike their NFC counter parts these 2 games are much easier to predict and don’t require endless hours of trawling through statistics. There are however a few numbers and facts that provide big clues as to who will progress to the next round of the play offs.
Saturday’s game in Texas is a repeat of last year’s Wild Card round and pits the waning Houston Texans against the Cincinnati Bengals, whose star is very much on the rise. Not only have the Texans lost 3 of their last 4 games, their offence has almost ground to halt, only once have they scored more than 16 points and in total they have only scored 65 points in total, quarterback Matt Schaub has suffered a serious dip in form of late and in his last 4 games he has thrown just 1 touchdown pass and 2 interceptions. The Texans have 2 main threat’s offensively, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, wide receiver Andre Johnson has been one of the stand out players in his position since he was drafted in 2003 and this season he has amassed an impressive 1598 yards, but he has not provided much threat in ht red zone as he’s caught just 4 touchdowns. Tight end Owen Daniels has been more effective as a red zone threat and his 6 touchdown catches lead the team, but he hasn’t caught a touchdown pass since the 22nd of November. Running back Arian Foster has shouldered the burden of the Texans offence since his break out year in 2010 and this year he has weighed in with 15 rushing touchdowns and 2 more through the air, but his last touchdown pass was on the 11th November and he only rushed for 1 touchdown in his last 3 games. If the Texans are to win then Foster will need to work his magic and it will be a tough task as defence has been crucial to the Bengals winning their last 4 road games.
In their last 4 games away from home the Bengals have not conceded a rushing touchdown and only 1 team has rushed for 100 yards against them. Their strength of their run defence has allowed their defensive front to create pressure on opposing passers and they have take 4 interceptions in these last 4 games, returning 1 for a touchdown, they have also recovered 5 fumbles over the course of those 4 games. In their last 8 games the Bengals have conceded more than 13 points just twice, in week 14 they allowed 20 points at home against the Cowboys and last week at home to the Ravens they conceded 17, so not insurmountable totals by any means. In addition to throwing 3 interceptions the Texans have lost 3 fumbles in their last 3 home games too, so the Bengals defence will be looking to capitalise on any chance to turn over the ball.
On the offensive side of the ball the Bengals could be without their starting running back BenJarvus Green- Ellis, which could force them to throw the ball more than they would like to, while Green- Ellis has not always been at his best this season (he recorded just 14 yards on 15 carries the last time he played) he does have valuable playoff experience with the Patriots and this could be valuable to an offence with a second year quarterback and 2 rookie wide receivers.
The Bengals defence should be able to stifle a stuttering Texans offence and record a 7th away win this season, but the Texans have been anything but predictable this season but since the loss of defensive star Brian Cushing in week 5 have not looked the impressive, dynamic team they did at the start of the season and their struggle to beat the Jaguars 43-37 in overtime were echoed in their last home game when they were demolished 23-6 by the Vikings. Recent form points it being a low scoring arm-wrestle of a game and that’s just how the Bengals and their impressive second year quarterback Andy Dalton like it. Dalton’s rapport with fellow second year player wide receiver A.J Green is the foundation of the Bengals offence and after their displays last season’s Wild Card game (Dalton threw 3 interceptions and Green only made 5 grabs from his 12 targets) they owe the Texans one .