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Fantasy Football Playoff Challenge: Bengals vs. Texans Preview

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Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans Fantasy Preview

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday brings the kickoff to Wild Card Weekend, which is regarded by many as the most exciting weekend of the NFL season. We will break down several important statistics that will dictate the outcome of each game. Based on these stats, we will identify which players will make a big impact from a fantasy football perspective. If you haven’t already joined the Fantasy Football Playoff Challenge, then I would recommend it.

The first game of the weekend is Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans with a 4:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.

At first glance, these teams appear to be very different in many major aspects. Houston has a veteran quarterback and an elite running back, while Cincinnati features a young quarterback and a powerful, grinding run game. The Houston offensive line looks to create holes and use their running game to break games open, while Cincinnati does their best to pound the ball up the middle.

On the defensive side of the ball, however, these teams show several similarities. They are both highlighted by physical, active front sevens that hold opponent run games in check and rack up sacks. Impressive personnel aside, the Cincinnati defense has come on strong lately, whereas the Houston defense has struggled mightily late in the season after losing linebacker, Brian Cushing.

We will explore several key team statistics and impact players that will determine the game of this weekend’s wild card matchup. Special teams may be the one aspect that separates these two teams on Saturday; follow the slideshow to see who has the advantage.

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Passing Game


Advantage: Houston Texans


NFL Team Average Team Passer Rating:

Bengals: 89.2

Texans: 88.1

Opponent Average Team Passer Rating:

Bengals: 80.7

Texans: 80.0

Third Down Conversion Percentage:

Bengals: 34.10

Texans: 37.56

Matt Schaub to Andre Johnson slightly trumps Andy Dalton to A.J. Green. Neither quarterback has been very effective over the last four weeks but Schaub and Johnson combined with Owen Daniels and Arian Foster out of the backfield gives Houston the better package of weapons. The Houston offensive line has also given up just 28 sacks compared to 46 allowed by Cincinnati.

Top Fantasy Players: 1. Andre Johnson, 2. A.J. Green, 3. Matt Schaub, 4. Andy Dalton, 5. Owen Daniels

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Running Game


Advantage: Houston Texans


NFL Team Rushing Play Percentage:

Bengals: 42.32%

Houston: 46.61%

Opponent Yards per Rush Attempt:

Bengals: 4.1

Texans: 4.0

Houston runs the ball more often and more effectively than Cincinnati. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is inferior in comparison to Arian Foster. The two teams are comparable from a run blocking percentage but Houston has the slight advantage.

Top Fantasy Players: 1. Arian Foster, 2. BenJarvus Green-Ellis

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Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Advantage: Cincinnati Bengals

Sacks per Game:

Bengals: 3.2

Texans: 2.8

Opponent Yards per Play:

Bengals: 4.9

Texans: 5.1

Opponent Third Down Conversion Percentage:

Bengals: 36.07

Texans: 33.02

The two defenses look very comparable from statistical standpoint but Cincinnati has been far better than Houston in the last four games. Cincinnati has allowed just 13.3 points per game over that span, while Houston has allowed 22.7. The Cincinnati front seven is the most underrated in the NFL and should limit the effectiveness of the Houston offense all game.

Top Fantasy Players: 1. Cincinnati Defense, 2. Houston Defense

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Special Teams

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Advantage: Cincinnati Bengals

Special Teams Ranking*:

Bengals: 7th

Texans: 32nd

*How many points each team receives from the five elements of special teams: field goals/extra points, kickoffs, kick returns, punts, punt returns.

The teams are statistically similar in terms of production from their returners. However, Cincinnati owns the advantage due to a higher field goal percentage and an overall more effective punting game. The one glaring difference is that Cincinnati punter, Kevin Huber pins opponents inside the 20 on 43.4% of his punts compared to just 31.7% from Houston's Donnie Jones. This may seem like a relatively insignificant statistic but field position is crucial in playoff games.

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Outcome: Cincinnati Bengals - 24, Houston Texans - 23

NFL Team Penalties per Game:

Bengals: 6.2

Texans: 6.8

Home/Away Record:

Bengals: 6-2 away

Texans: 6-2 home

Turnover Margin:

Bengals: +4

Texans: +12

Last 3 Games:

Bengals: 3-0

Texans: 1-2

Record vs. Common Opponents:

Bengals: 2-3

Texans: 4-0

At first glance, these teams are different based on personnel but this observation is refuted by a closer look at the statistics. The only major difference between these two teams is their recent quality of play. The Cincinnati defense has gotten better down the stretch while Houston's defense has stumbled. The old adage of "defense wins championships" usually holds true come playoff time. Cincinnati will win a close, hard-fought game because they are the hotter team and hold defensive and special teams advantages.