2011 Regular season record: 37-31 .544
Cincinnati at Houston:
Making just his second career start after Matt Schaub (foot) and Matt Leinart (collarbone) suffered season-ending injuries in consecutive weeks, Texans rookie quarterback T.J. Yates led fourth-quarter scoring drives of 83 and 80 yards, respectively, in a 20-19 come-from-behind victory at Cincinnati on Dec. 11. His game-winning 6-yard scoring pass to Kevin Walters with six seconds left extended Houston's franchise-record winning streak to seven. It also allowed the Texans (10-6) to celebrate their division title in the locker room after they watched Tennessee lose to New Orleans.
It would be hard to call the Texans lucky with the number of injuries they've overcome this season. Arian Foster was third in the NFL with 1,841 yards from scrimmage, but he missed two games at the beginning of the season with a hamstring injury. Houston has not had All-Pro linebacker Mario Williams (pectoral) in the lineup since October following his season-ending injury, while All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson has played just seven games due to injuries to both hamstrings. Johnson returned in Sunday's 23-22 loss to the Titans following a three-game absence, but Yates played just one series after suffering a bruised left shoulder when he was sacked on his first snap.
Yates, though, is expected to start after backup Jake Delhomme played for the first time since being signed Nov. 29. Kubiak also had a chance to rest many of his regulars last Sunday - including Foster and tight end Owen Daniels - with the No. 3 seed already clinched, but losing three straight was not how the Texans wanted to head into their first playoff game.
The Bengals (9-7) have the same approach as they enter the postseason for the third time since 2005, but are looking to advance for the first time since a 41-14 wild-card victory over the Houston Oilers on Jan. 6, 1991. Cincinnati defeated St. Louis and Arizona following last month's loss to Houston, but it needed losses by the New York Jets and Denver last Sunday to clinch the final wild-card spot. Cincinnati will have to have its run defense improve after yielding a season-high 221 yards last Sunday. Foster (1,224) and rookie Ben Tate (942) lead the Texans' second-ranked running attack (153.0 per game). While Andy Dalton is the more experienced of the two QB's, he and Green will have to make plays in order to exploit the Texans' second ranked defense.
Yates should benefit from having Johnson on the field. In their one full game together, Johnson caught four passes for 97 yards in a 17-10 victory over Atlanta. Johnson had two catches for 21 yards in Sunday's loss to Tennessee. Expect Johnson to have at least five catches against the Bengals. With Foster and Ben Tate getting almost all of the carries, the Texans will do everything they can to control the clock and keep the Bengals' offense off the field. Houston led the league with an average time of possession of 32:41.
Houston -3 (bought half)