If you haven’t noticed, the Bengals are looking pretty darn good right now. With the exception of the running back situation, the Law Firm was listed as limited today, the Bengals are riding a pretty good wave as they prepare to face the Texans for the second year in a row. Unlike last year, however, the Bengals can actually win this one.
While some may have had cautious optimism before last year’s game, few thought the Bengals could actually win. Sure, this is football, and anything can and will happen in football, but last years Bengals squad was merely getting its feet wet. This year’s team is ready for the real thing.
No, Andy Dalton has not looked as sharp in recent weeks, and A.J. Green’s week 16 was one to forget, but in the NFL it is said time and time again that defense wins championships. Is Eli Manning better than Tom Brady? No. 100 times out of 100 that is an easy no. But the Giants have beaten the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl thanks to a much better defense.
Now comes the hard part in my job because, at least on paper, the Texans’ defense is better than Cincinnati’s. The same cannot be said in real life, however. Yes, the Texans’ defense is really good, led by one of the greatest linemen in the game, J.J. Watt. And Jonathan Joseph is a fantastic corner who is going to give Green a hard time. Beyond them you cannot forget about Cincinnati product Connor Barwin or Antonio Smith. After that? Not so much.
On offense, you only need to worry about two names, Johnson and Foster. Beyond Andre Johnson, who will keep the Bengal’s secondary on their toes, and the speedy, flashy Arian Foster, the Texan’s offense doesn’t scare anyone. Matt Schaubis a solid QB but he won’t remind anyone of Elway. Think more along the lines of a young John Kitna. That only scares Bengals fans if he is playing for us.
Can we win this game? Sure we can. Will it be easy? No way. Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko and the bench of the Bengals D-line are going to be busy all day making sure Schaub has a hand in his face and Leon Hall will have to get physical to have any chance at containing Johnson. If the Bengals can shut down the passing game and make the Texans’ rely on Foster, the game will be over. Foster is one of the greatest backs in the game but he isn’t Adrian Peterson. He can’t win games by himself.
As far as the Bengals go, Dalton needs to keep his passes high, away from the swatting hands of J.J. Watt. After that it should be a piece of cake.
I’m kidding, this one could go either way. Both teams are great and this game will be the one to watch on wildcard weekend. Personally though, I think the Bengals can pull this one out.
But I may be a little biased.