When the Cincinnati Bengals roll into Houston tomorrow, there may be a slight sense of déjà vu from the loss they suffered in Reliant Stadium during last years playoff tussle, but this year’s Bengals are most certainly better equipped to take down the Houston Texans.
The Bengals haven’t advanced past their first game in the playoffs since 1990 when they defeated the Houston Oilers. They will be itching to break that fruitless streak by unleashing one of the league’s better defenses on a Texans team that are a little on the back foot after dropping their last two games of the regular season to the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts.
Once again the threats that the Texans offer are the same and the Bengals will need to shut down Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, who are by far and away the Texans two most dangerous threats with the ball in hand. The Bengals will plan to neutralize these threats by relying on what’s got them to the playoffs: stellar front seven play. Four names jump out at me when I’m looking at this Bengals defense: Rey Maualuga, Vontaze Burfict, Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson.
In my opinion, the way to neutralize Johnson out wide is to get after Matt Schaub and bring him down early, and Atkins and Johnson with 24 sacks between them offer the perfect antidote to the Johnson poison that plagued them last year. Foster, who’s the other half of the Texans dynamic duo, will be dealt with by the athletic talents of Burfict and the University of Southern California smarts of Maualuga. Burfict is probably the best non-draft day pick up of the last five years, whilst Maualuga has shown in recent weeks that he’s grown into the linebacker that everyone thought he would be coming out of USC.
When I look at this all within my large, analytical football mind, I can see that the time for the Bengals to make a playoff run is now. Andy Dalton is ready, the Bengals defense is ready, the city is ready; all they need to do is put their A game out their and the rest will follow.
Follow me on Twitter @rosswatson20 and join the conversation.