The injury-plagued Houston Texans (10-6) host the Cincinnati Bengals (9-7) at Reliant Stadium on Saturday, in a battle of teams that have been deprived of playoff wins in recent years.
The Bengals are searching for their first playoff win in 21 years, while the Texans have never played a playoff game since their franchise was established in 2002.
The AFC wild card game features two wild-card quarterbacks. Rookie Andy Dalton was one of the surprise starting quarterbacks going into the 2011 season, as the Bengals parted ways with long-time starter Carson Palmer in the offseason. Dalton filled in admirably playing in all 16 games and passing for 3,398 yards, to go along with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The 24-year-old sat out of practice on Wednesday due to flu-like symptoms.
After injuries to quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, T.J. Yates remains Houston's starter. The rookie has played in just six games this season, and has completed 61.2 percent of his passes. Yates was replaced by veteran Jake Delhomme against the Titans on Sunday after a suffering a bruised shoulder, but has practiced this week and should be at full strength.
Yates will have one of the best wide receivers in the NFL available. Andre Johnson has missed nine games this season with hamstring injuries, but played Sunday against Tennessee and practiced on Thursday.
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Fortunately for the Texans, they won't have to just rely on the passing game with the second-best running game in the NFL. Despite injuries, Arian Foster has rushed for 1,224 yards, while rookie Ben Tate has rushed for 942.
The Bengals also have a strong ground game, led by Cedric Benson. The 29-year-old running back is coming off his third-straight season of rushing for over 1,000 yards, but is also coming off a game against the Ravens where he gained just 53 yards on 13 carries.
Cincinnati also boast two young and and athletic wide outs. Rookie A.J. Green caught 65 passes for 1,057 yards, while Jerome Simpson caught 50 passes for 725 yards.
The Bengals hosted the Texans on Dec. 11, and Houston game away with the win, 20-19. The Texans racked up 412 total yards compared to 285 yards by Cincinnati.
Tight end Owen Daniels is questionable for the Texans, due to a knee injury.
A Houston victory means they will play at No. 2 seed Baltimore next weekend. Should the Bengals win, they will play top-seeded New England.
LINE: Houston is favored by four points.
OVER/UNDER: 38.5 points
PREDICTION: Both teams will likely favor the running game over the passing game. Should the offensive line not open holes for Benson, look for Dalton to target Green, who caught five passes in the last meeting between the two teams. The Bengals defense has been under-rated this season, but got burned last week against the Ravens. When the Texans decide to put the ball in the air, expect Yates to spread the ball around, as the young quarterback has numerous options beyond Johnson, which include receivers Jacoby Jones and Kevin Walter. The Texans' offense might be just too much for the Bengals' defense to contain.
PREDICTED SCORE: Houston over Cincinnati, 24-17.