The Cincinnati Bengals capped off a 10-6 season with a big win over their division rivals, The Baltimore Ravens, in week 17. The Bengals earned a Wild-Card berth, and will head to Houston to take on the Texans this Saturday in a re-match of an AFC WC game from last year. If the Texans want to repeat their outcome (a 31-10 win), they will have to shake off the cobwebs that plagued them down the stretch. While sharpening up their offensive weapons will help, they big key to defeating the Bengals will lie with the defense.
If the Houston Texans want to win this game as handily as they did last year, they will have to force Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to throw the ball, A LOT. In his short 2-year career, Dalton has attempted 35 or more passes in a game on 12 different occasions, including last year’s playoff loss. In the games in which Dalton has thrown 35 or more passes, he has been intercepted 19 times and only has 13 touchdowns. Dalton is not yet the type of quarterback that can overcome large deficits with his arm.
While the Bengals are more than capable of winning by airing it out (weapons like AJ Green and Jermaine Gresham), this is a team that has been built with a solid defense and a balanced offense. Running Back BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for over 1,000 yards this season, and the team was 5-0 when he had 20 or more carries. The Bengals succeed when they run often, and struggle when they are forced to ‘air it out.’ If the Texans pass rush can add pressure on Dalton, the outcome of this game will be reminiscent of last season. Dalton and the Bengals continue to improve, but if they can’t find balance, they’ll have yet another playoff one-and-done.
*Stats obtained from yahoo sports*