NFL Nation: Bengals-Texans WC 2012

Final Word: Bengals at Texans

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
1:30
PM ET
Wild-Card Final Word: Bengals-Texans | Lions-Saints | Falcons-Giants | Steelers-Broncos

Three nuggets of knowledge about Saturday's Bengals-Texans wild-card game:

[+] EnlargeBen Tate
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesBen Tate is looking to duplicate his regular-season performance against the Bengals in Saturday's AFC playoff game.
Yards after contact: Per ESPN Stats and Info, the Bengals defense allowed 2.0 yards per rush before contact this season, the third-lowest total in the league. But Cincinnati is allowing 1.9 yards per rush after contact, seventh-worst in the NFL. The Texans led the league with 1,133 yards after contact this season. Ben Tate ran well against the Bengals in the regular-season game (eight carries for 67 yards with a 44 yarder) and quarterback T.J. Yates had a giant 17-yard run on the game winning drive. Arian Foster had just 41 yards on 15 carries. Given a second chance against Cincy coming off a week’s rest, I think Foster won’t just slip off defenders when he’s taking handoffs but also after pulling in receptions.

Hands up: The Texans led the league with 19 passes batted down, largely thanks to their work against Andy Dalton on Dec. 11, when they got their hands on eight. Dalton had the most passes batted or defended this season (79), while the Texans led all defenses with 94 defended passes. The Bengals are likely to call a lot of three-step drop quick throws. Defensive linemen and outside linebackers can’t usually get to the quarterback that quickly. So the next best thing is to pull up and look to get a paw on the ball. Odds are defensive coordinator Wade Phillips finds more ways to fluster Dalton than Dalton finds solutions to what the Texans try to do to him.

No mo: The Texans don’t come into the playoffs with momentum, as they’ve lost three in a row. This year’s Texans and Broncos are the seventh and eighth teams to reach the playoffs after losing their final three games since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Each of the previous three teams to enter the postseason on a losing streak of at least three games won its first playoff game: The 2009 Saints won Super Bowl XIV, the 2001 Raiders advanced to the divisional playoffs and the 2000 Vikings made it to the NFC Championship Game.

Final Word: Bengals at Texans

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
1:30
PM ET
Wild-Card Final Word: Bengals-Texans | Lions-Saints | Falcons-Giants | Steelers-Broncos

Three nuggets of knowledge about Saturday's Bengals-Texans wild-card game:

Ending playoff droughts: While the Texans are in the playoffs for the first time in their nine-year existence, the Bengals are enduring a much longer wait. Cincinnati has the longest active NFL streak without a playoff victory, going 20 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Bengals' last postseason victory came in the 1990 wild-card playoffs against Houston -- and that's the Oilers, not the Texans. On Saturday, Cincinnati will look to end that draught that has spanned 7,768 days. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is trying to end his own personal losing streak in the postseason. If he falls to the Texans, Lewis would become the first head coach to lose his first three playoff games since Wade Phillips dropped his first four before earning a postseason win in 2009.

[+] EnlargeMarvin Lewis
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireMarvin Lewis is aiming to avoid seeing his personal playoff losing streak hit three games.
Making the tackle: If the Bengals can stop the Texans and the NFL's second-ranked running attack, they have a good shot at winning. To do so, Cincinnati has to fix a run defense that has crumbled down the stretch. In the first 10 games of the season, Cincinnati allowed 88.6 yards rushing per game. In the past six, the Bengals have given up 131.5. The run defense bottomed out in the regular-season finale when it got lit up by the Ravens' Ray Rice for 191 yards on the ground. The problem comes down to tackling, or the lack thereof. According to ESPN S&I, the Bengals are allowing 1.9 yards after contact per rush, seventh-worst in the NFL. With running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate, the Texans lead the league with 1,133 yards after contact this season.

Avoiding the swat team: Elias Sports Bureau confirms that this marks the first postseason game since the 1970 merger to have rookie quarterbacks starting for both teams (Andy Dalton for Cincinnati and T.J. Yates for Houston). Dalton rarely has to worry about getting knocked down. The Bengals allowed the fourth-fewest sacks in the NFL this season. His biggest concern is having his passes knocked down. Dalton had the most passes batted or defended this season (79), including eight against the Texans on Dec. 11, according to ESPN S&I. That's not unusual for Houston, which led all defenses in defending passes (94).

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