Wild Card Weekend: Texans vs. Bengals
Patrick D. Starr
It is less than one day for the Houston Texans playoff debut this Saturday against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the city of Houston's top is fixing to burst. With the city's first playoff appearance in the NFL playoffs since 1993, the Texans will be looking for their first ever franchise playoff victory and first since 1991, when the Houston Oilers ruled the football landscape.
Now the Texans are on the main stage of playoff football and opening up the 2011 NFL playoffs by being the lead game on Saturday. The Texans have already faced the Bengals this season and won a nail biter with a 20-19 victory to clinch the AFC South championship with that victory. Since then the Texans have gone dormant in the win column and seem to be struggling on all fronts.
With that said Saturday is a new day and the do or die scenario will unfold before our eyes. With the Texans regaining some key parts to their offense, the Bengals will see a different look from the Texans.
1. The parts the Texans are adding are Andre Johnson and James Casey. Johnson is coming back from his hamstring issue, and looked good in his limited time against the Tennessee Titans in week 17. The real test is when he gets full load at the receiver position, but all signs are pointing to him being a full go from practice reports.
Also the health of James Casey has returned and he was also a welcomed site to see back in the mix on offense. Not a devastating blocker as fullback Lawrence Vickers, Casey can block and most importantly put another offensive weapon on the field. He can give linebackers, safeties and corner backs fits with his strength and size, he can put another wrinkle into this struggling offense.
2. This one is simple, in the playoffs T.J. Yates can no longer be a game manager he has to be a playmaker for the Texans offense. There is no tomorrow and Yates is going to have to make correct reads and take chances. The Texans offense is only as good as Yates is, and there is no better week to take that step than on Wild Card weekend.
3. Johnathan Joseph plays a big role in Saturday's contest, with his ability to match up with Bengals wideout A.J. Green. Not only to shut him down, but for Wade Phillips to rotate the safeties to help the other corners Kareem Jackson and Jason Allen cover Jerome Simpson. The Bengals and Andy Dalton are going to pick on Jackson and Allen, but they have to bring their best game to the table.
4. One thing the Texans have not done as consistent basis towards the end of the season is cause turnovers and create sacks, pressures and hits on the quarterback. The Texans have a chance to get back on track and make things happen with their pass rush. Connor Barwin will lead the charge, but he is going to need help from Antonio Smith, Brooks Reed and Tim Jamison to name a few. Their ability to create issues in the backfield only make the defense that much better.
5. The fans of Houston are going to play a big part of the Texans success on Saturday. With the Bengals on offense the fans can take over and make their life miserable. Case and point, the fans played a huge part against the Atlanta Falcons earlier this season, and this Saturday could even be louder. Texans players after that game said that was the loudest they have ever heard the stadium. With the first playoff game just days away, it will be a site to see on how big of a factor the crowd will play.