Destination: Cincinnati

December, 10, 2011
12/10/11
6:00
PM ET
CINCINNATI -- Just arrived for what could be a preview of a first-round playoff game between the Bengals and Texans. In fact, if the season ended today, the Bengals (7-5) would play the Texans (9-3) in the wild-card round, although the game would be played in Houston and not at Paul Brown Stadium.

Even though this is the first game against the Texans, Andy Dalton has seen Houston previously. Growing up in Katy, Texas, he used to go to Texans games growing up.

Dalton
Dalton
In order for Cincinnati to beat Houston, the Bengals need Dalton to rebound from last Sunday's performance at Pittsburgh. His 45.8 completion percentage was his lowest this season and his 11 completions were his fewest since the season opener when he had 10 at Cleveland.

But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis doesn't put all of last Sunday's struggles in the passing game on Dalton.

“I don’t know that he’s struggled or if balls went off the receivers’ hands or they didn’t run the right routes," Lewis said. "Andy continues to do a good job and grow each week. Once everybody plays up to his standards, things will go just fine. He’s played the way we expected him to play. He’s very mature. We felt he’d be able to handle [starting], and he hasn’t disappointed us in any way.”

Dalton has been of the biggest surprises of this year's rookie class. He is 356 passing yards away from becoming the fifth rookie quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and the second this season (Cam Newton has 3,297). According to ESPN Stats & Information, it would be the first time in NFL history that two rookie quarterbacks passed for 3,000 yards in a single season.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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