In beating the Cincinnati Bengals 19-13 in the wild card round of the 2012 NFL playoffs, the Houston Texans advance to the divisional round where they will face the New England Patriots. While the win over the Bengals was an achievement, especially since the Texans lost three of their last four regular season games, they will need to perform much better offensively to defeat the league’s best offense. If not it could be a repeat of the last time the two teams met which would be a long night for them.
The Texans did perform well offensively considering they were facing the sixth ranked defense in the league. The Texans offense gained more yards in the air and on the ground then the Bengals have averaged this year. But that performance still won’t be enough to win in Foxborough next weekend.
The Patriots offense this season has been virtually unstoppable. They lead the league in yards per game with 427.9 and in points per game with 34.8. These two teams last met in week 14 where the Patriots dominated from the first possession. They ended the game recording 419 yards and 42 points. With the way the Patriots have played most of the season, there’s no reason to believe they couldn’t do that again. As is with every team the Patriots have faced this year, halting their vaunted offense would be a monumental task even for a defense as good as the Texans placing pressure on the offense to perform.
Of course, the Bengals are a better defense than the Patriots. Defense has unquestionably been a problem for the defending AFC champions over the past few years. But the Patriots defense today is not the same as it was when the season started. They have improved as they have gotten healthier and the acquisition of cornerback Aqib Talib made the Patriots defense much stronger giving them more depth.
While Texans quarterback Matt Schaub had a solid performance against Cincinnati throwing for 262 yards, he was set up by another special performance by running back Arian Foster who set a record by rushing for over 100 yards in his first three playoff games. Foster’s performance Saturday afternoon was impressive but will be hard to duplicate in New England.
While the Patriots defensive struggles has been mainly their passing defense. The team’s rushing defense has been strong all year ranked in the top ten and higher than that of the Bengals. The main reason for that is the play of veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones. Ninkovich suffered a hip injury in the final game of the season against the Miami Dolphins but all indications are that he’ll be ready for next weekend.
The Texans offense played well Saturday against the Bengals but that performance still won’t be enough to beat the Patriots. All indications from the last game between the two teams are that it will be a shootout and the Texans must be prepared for that. The Patriots have only scored as low as Houston’s total on Saturday once this season which was in week two against the Arizona Cardinals. They likely won’t score that low again which means the Texans will need an improved performance next week just to stay close to the Patriots. The Texans offensive output was good on Saturday but not enough to reach the AFC championship game.