AFC Wild Card Picks: Texans play first-ever playoff game against Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans
Saturday, 1/7/12, 4:30 PM EST, TV:  NBC
Opening Point Spread:  Houston -2.5
Current Betting Line:  Houston -3
Opening Total:  39
Current Total:  38.5
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Texans vs. Bengals  AFC Wild Card Betting Preview
Arian Foster and the Texans will be playing their first-ever playoff game and beat the Bengals in Week 14.

One of two rematches from the regular season will kick off the NFL playoffs when the Houston Texans host the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday.  Later in the day, the Detroit Lions will visit the New Orleans Saints.  The Texans (10-6) won 20-19 at Cincinnati in Week 14 en route to the AFC South title while the Bengals (9-7) qualified for the postseason as a Wild Card after finishing third behind division champion Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the AFC North.

One of two rookie quarterbacks will advance to the next round, and Houston’s T.J. Yates played like a veteran in the fourth quarter of the last meeting.  Yates led two scoring drives of 80 yards or more, connecting on the game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Kevin Walters with six seconds remaining.  He finished with 300 passing yards and two touchdowns with one interception while his counterpart Andy Dalton had 189.

The Texans (-3, O/U 38.5) have dropped three straight though following a seven-game winning streak, which was capped by that victory.  They rested many of their starters in a 23-22 home loss to Tennessee last week, including Yates, who was relieved by veteran Jake Delhomme after suffering a separated left shoulder against the Titans.  Delhomme played for the first time this season and did not play particularly well despite throwing for 211 yards and one touchdown.

In the first meeting, Houston’s running game was held in check by Cincinnati, and that could spell trouble in the rematch.  Running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate combined for 108 yards on 23 carries, and that number is not nearly as impressive when you consider Tate got 44 of them on one long run.  Foster specifically had a hard time getting going with just 41, his second-lowest total of the season.

The Bengals had the NFL’s 10th-ranked run defense during the regular season, allowing 104.7 yards per game.  They won two of three down the stretch but backed into the playoffs after losing 24-16 to the Ravens at home last week.  Offensively, they will depend on Dalton, fellow rookie A.J. Green at wide receiver and veteran running back Cedric Benson to score against a tough Texans defense that ranked second overall in the league, surrendering 285.7 yards per game.  Dalton is recovering from the flu and owns a 3-0 career record at Reliant Stadium, winning twice there in high school and once in college while playing at TCU.

Cincinnati went 0-7 against playoff teams this year and has lost the last three meetings with the Texans, failing to cover the spread in the past four games between the teams.  The Bengals also covered just one of their last eight games, going 1-5-2 vs. the line.

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