The enormous egg that the Houston Texans laid in the last quarter of the season have many questioning if the preseason favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl even have a place in the post season.
While they beat the mediocre teams as they were supposed to, the average teams took them to the mat and the elite teams flat-out abused them.
They feasted on the AFC South, going 5-1 against their division foes, beat Denver in Houston and took 3 out of 4 from the AFC East…but in those games, only the Dolphins, Titans and Ravens were comfortable victories, while the Broncos, Jets, Bills, Bears, Lions and Jaguars all took them to the mat before succumbing in close contests.
Their losses? Blowouts all.
The Packers and the Vikings took them in Houston while the Patriots crushed them in Foxboro 42-14, and Indianapolis dominated them in the season finale with the top seed in the conference on the line.
Conversely, their opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals started slowly and lost some games they should have won, but turned it on in the second half of the season, winning 7 of their last 8 games including victories over the Giants, Eagles, Steelers and Ravens. Their only loss in that period was a wild comeback by Dallas to win by 1 point.
The Bengals are weather-worn tough and have a ton of momentum, the Texans are a running back, a wide reciever, a pass rusher and duct tape. Never was that more prominently displayed than when they visited the Patriots five weeks ago.
Most smart teams had the Texans figured out, particularly from midseason on. Quarterback Matt Schaub had his way with teams early, but once their opponents figured out that you limit running back Arian Foster and keep reciever Andre Johnson covered, Schaub evaporates like stangant water…
…and the teams that beat them were able to put additional pressure on the defense by forcing Schaub into turnovers and making them defense a short field – and it’s that simple.
If the Bengals are able to score early and take any sort of crowd effect out of the mix, shut down Foster and rely on their excellent pass defense, they should be able to take the Texans in Houston.
And should they somehow manage to beat Cincinnati this afternoon, all that awaits them is another beatdown in cold and windy Foxboro…