NFL Betting Favorite: Texans -3
The 2012 NFL playoffs kick off this Saturday afternoon in Houston. The Texans have fallen just short of the playoffs several times, but they were finally able to seal the deal this year. Cincinnati fell short against the Ravens last week, but the Bengals snuck into the playoffs thanks to some help from other playoff hopefuls. Which of these young teams will step up and get through to the second weekend of the playoffs?
Andy Dalton had a terrific rookie campaign for Cincinnati. He stepped into a difficult situation and was very good from day one. Dalton finished the regular season with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. A.J. Green established himself as Dalton’s top target right from the beginning of the season. Green topped 1,000 yards receiving in his rookie season. Jermaine Gresham and Jerome Simpson also had breakout seasons for the Bengals. Cincinnati really needs a strong game out of Cedric Benson in this one. When Benson is running it well this offense is tough to stop. The Bengals only managed 285 total yards of offense a few weeks ago against Houston, so they must improve offensively in this one.
Cincinnati’s defense was the reason the Bengals made it to the postseason this year. The Bengals finished seventh in the NFL in total defense. This defense has only allowed more than 24 points once this year. The unit has suffered some key injuries and they aren’t quite as good as they were at the start of the year, but this group fights very hard. The defensive front is strong in the middle, and they’ll need to be at their best to stop the Texans running game this weekend.
Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart are both out with injuries, so it will be rookie T.J. Yates at quarterback for the Texans. Yates has done a surprisingly good job for an unheralded rookie quarterback. Yates is completing 61% of his passes, and he has a quarterback rating of 80.7. Andre Johnson has been suffering from a hamstring injury all year, but he is expected to play this Saturday. Johnson seems to be doing much better, and I expect him to make a big impact in his first playoff game as a professional. Arian Foster and Ben Tate are a great tailback tandem for Houston. The running game is the Texans bread and butter. Houston averaged 23.8 points per game during the regular season.
Houston had the worst pass defense in the NFL last year, but this year was a major strength. Johnathan Joseph, previously a star for the Bengals, transformed this secondary with his terrific skills at the cornerback spot. Joseph has 15 pass deflections and four interceptions this year. Houston allowed just 189.7 yards per game through the air this year. It would be tough to find a pair of better middle linebackers than Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans. Cushing leads the team with 76 tackles. Overall, this unit gave up just 17.4 points per contest this year.
The Texans won on a last second score when these two teams met in December. I think the Bengals can stay with the Texans in this one. Expect a strong effort from the Bengals defense. I like the underdog here with the three points.
Free NFL Pick: Bengals +3
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