The very first playoff game of the 2012 season will be played in Houston as the Texans take on the Cincinnati Bengals. That the Texans knocked off the Bengals in last year’s wildcard game (31-10) makes this game that much more personal for the Bengals. Add to that, the fact that while the Texans are 6-2 at home this season, the Bengals are 6-2 on the road this season. Plus the Bengals have gotten hot in the second half of the season winning 7 of their last 8 games. Meanwhile the Texans have gotten cold in their second half of the season winning just 5 of the last 8 games, losing 3 of the last 4 games, and being taken to OT by two mediocre teams before winning those two games.

The odds makers obviously think very little of momentum leading into the post season because they have the Texans favored to win with a five point spread and the over/under is at 43 points

On the season the Texans have scored an average of 26 points per game while the Bengals have averaged 24.4 points a game. Interestingly the Texans allow an average of 20.7 points and the Bengals 20 points. The trouble with depending on averages is that a weak schedule can skew the numbers. The Bengals certainly had a weak schedule this season. The best team that Cincinnati beat was Washington (38-31); they also split games with Baltimore. However, Houston has played and beat Baltimore and Denver, which are playoff teams, but lost to Indianapolis and Minnesota who are also both playoff teams. Therefore it might be fair to say that in this case, the averages gives us a probably outcome.

In yards produced or allowed both teams are very similar. The only exception would be that Houston on average out earns Cincinnati in offensive yardage by about 40 total yards. That is not much but given how close this game is likely to be that might be enough to matter. While the Texans are a run strong team with a better run defense, the Bengals are a more pass focused team on offense and defense. Against pass focused teams the Texans have performed poorly or lost (New England, Green Bay, Detroit and Indianapolis). Against teams with stronger run defenses the Bengals has consistently lost (Miami, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver and Baltimore).

The numbers and the scheduling seem to support the notion that this will be a game that is closer than a 5 point spread. With offenses and defenses producing the same numbers it is hard to think anyone will run away with this game. There is enough to suggest that Houston should be the better team, but just slightly. At home this season, Houston has had final scores over 40 points on 5 occasions and under or at 40 points on 3 occasions. For Houston at home and against teams with a relatively balanced offense, the likelihood of the scoring going over 43 points rises dramatically.

The Bengals have S Chris Cocker listed as doubtful this week after leaving last week’s game against the Ravens with a quadriceps injury, he has 3 INTs and 29 tackles this season. Also, word has not been released on Bengal’s starting RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ hamstring injury and he did not practice Tuesday, keep updated on this injury. The Texans have had some injury trouble with their backup linebackers but otherwise their defense seems ready to go. On offense the Texans are concerned about starting TE Owen Daniels with hamstring and back problems.

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