The Bengals have reached the playoffs for the fourth time under Marvin Lewis and in consecutive seasons for the first time in 30 years. While the Texans come in struggling (losers of two straight), they have history on their side. Houston has won four straight games against the Bengals and is yet to be beaten by an AFC team in Reliant Stadium this year. The Bengals are on a roll, having won seven of their last eight games to close out the regular season.
Key Matchup: Bengals defense vs. Arian Foster. Arian Foster is sixth in the league in rushing and will be the deciding factor for this game. If he can rush for 100+ yards it will be difficult for the Bengals to win this game. Matt Schaub isn’t a great quarterback and he’s making his first ever postseason start, so the Bengals would do well to force the offense to run through his hands. If the Bengals can slow Foster down and make Schaub try to beat them through the air, they will likely come out with a win in this one.
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Player to watch: BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Ellis has been the heart and soul of this Bengals offense this year. Not only has he been the source of a lot of 3rd down conversions leading to long drives and points, but he’s opened up the play-action game for Andy Dalton and AJ Green as well. I think Ellis shows up big on Saturday. He is going to go stride for stride with Arian Foster and keep the Bengals within striking distance.
My Prediction: Bengals 24 Texans 21. I think this is going to be a very close game that will likely be decided in the 4th quarter. Both teams need to prevent big special teams plays, as they could be the deciding factor in this one. I’m giving the edge to the Bengals because I think they’re peaking at the perfect time whereas the Texans are hitting the low point of their season. Ellis is going to rush for 80+ yards and will set up many 3rd and short scenarios that will keep Arian Foster and the Texans offense off the field.