2012 Divisional Preview: Houston vs. Baltimore

This is the third of four posts this week examining the Divisional matchups in the NFL Playoffs. Check back soon for the final preview:

The final AFC Divisonal Matchup features the Houston Texans at the Baltimore Ravens at 1 ET on CBS Sunday. After thoroughly demolishing the Bengals last week 31-10, the Texans look to continue their play against Baltimore. The Ravens, on the other hand, spent last week resting up for this week’s matchup. The teams did not face each other this year so Baltimore has the advantage of an extra week of reviewing film, though it had to review film of the Bengals as well. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Offense: The Ravens are led by running back Ray Rice, who averaged 4.7 yards per carry this season on the way 1364 yards on the ground. Quarterback Joe Flacco threw for more than 3000 yards and 20 touchdowns while throwing just 12 interceptions on the year. The dual combo of Rice and Flacco gives Baltimore a potent, but not overpowering offense. The Ravens were 15th in the NFL in yards per game, but haven’t scored more than 24 points in a game since Week 11 against the Bengals as well.

For the Texans, it’s all about running back Arian Foster and last week was no exception. Foster ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over. Quarterback TJ Yates had a solid game as well, completing 11 of his 20 passes for 159 yards a touchdown. While running back Ben Tate wasn’t quite as productive as normal last week, the combination of him and Foster has been terrific all year and will pose a challenge to the Ravens’ excellent run defense. Continue reading “2012 Divisional Preview: Houston vs. Baltimore”

2012 Wild Card Preview: Cincinnati vs. Houston

This is the first of four posts this week examining the Wild Card matchups in the NFL Playoffs. Check back during the next few days for more previews:

The first matchup of the 2012 NFL Playoffs will see the Cincinnati Bengals travel to Houston to take on the Texans at 4:30 et. Saturday on NBC. The Bengals lost a tough game to the Baltimore Ravens yesterday in yet another loss to a team with a winning record. In fact, Cincinnati defeated just one team with a winning record the entire year. Houston, on the other hand, won four games against teams with winning records, including a 20-19 victory over the Bengals in Week 14. Since then though, the Texans have gone winless with losses to the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts and Titans. After the Texans starting quarterback Matt Schaub went down with a season-ending injury in week ten, rookie TJ Yates took over and has performed okay during the final six games. However, left the Texans’ final game against the Titans with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, but is expected to play on Saturday. Here’s a brief look at how the teams matchup:

Offense: Yates hasn’t had to carry a huge load for the Texans but he may need to do more against the Bengals. Luckily for Houston, the injury is to his non-throwing shoulder so he should be in good shape come Saturday. Nevertheless, running back Arian Foster will have to carry the brunt of the load in the game as he has done, along with running back Ben Tate, for most of the year. Look for Houston to continue using its second-ranked rushing offensive to plow through the Bengals’ defensive line. If Yates isn’t 100 percent, the Texans will have to rely even more on their running backs, which could limit their effectiveness over the course of the game.

For the Bengals, rookie Andy Dalton threw for more than 3000 yards this year and 20 touchdowns to lead his team to the playoffs. At running back, Cedric Benson surpassed the 1000-yard mark for the third consecutive year. Cincinnati sits in the middle of the league in both categories, but the two-thronged attack gives head coach Marvin Lewis plenty of options on the offensive end. I expect an even mix of Dalton and Benson, but look for Dalton to go deep to wide receiver AJ Green as the combination has proven lethal throughout the year. Continue reading “2012 Wild Card Preview: Cincinnati vs. Houston”

Can The AFC Playoffs Get Any Tighter?

Week 16 of the NFL season is upon us and the races are incredibly close.  

Photo Courtesy of AP

 

Historically close.  

The San Diego Chargers blew out the Tennessee Titans on Friday night to clinch the number two spot in the AFC behind the Indianapolis Colts who continue their pursuit for perfection Sunday against the New York Jets. Besides the Chargers and Colts, the rest of the AFC is effectively up for grabs.  

Here is the current playoff situation:  

Division Leaders
1. Indianapolis Colts (14-0)
2. San Diego Chargers (12-3)
3. New England Patriots (9-5)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (9-5)  

Wild Card Leaders
5. Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
6. Denver Broncos (8-6)  

In the Hunt
Miami Dolphins (7-7)
New York Jets (7-7)
Houston Texans (7-7)
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-7)  

The Patriots and Bengals are in the best place  as if either wins, they clinch their division. The Ravens and Broncos control their own destiny as well, but any slip up by them opens the doors for any of the Dolphins, Jets, Texans, Steelers, or Jaguars. So many things can happen, but let’s look at some of the games this week  

Jaguars at Patriots – The Jags travel up North into the Cold to face Bill Belichick’s Patriot team. After a couple of turbulent weeks, New England enjoyed its first real home win of the season last weekend and have put the Randy Moss saga behind them. Meanwhile, Jacksonville fought valiantly against the Colts last week, but came up four points short of the upset. This should be a great game, but I’m giving the Pats the edge mostly because New England excels in cold weather and Florida teams don’t. New England Continue reading “Can The AFC Playoffs Get Any Tighter?”