It is going to be a game full of firsts on Saturday afternoon at Reliant Stadium, where the Houston Texans will look to beat the NFL betting odds against the Cincinnati Bengals.
This is the first playoff game of the year, and it will be seen nationally on NBC at 4:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday.
This is the first time that the Texans (10-6 SU, 9-5-2) are going to be in the postseason and the first time that they have played a home game in the playoffs. Houston is also coming off of its first AFC South title in franchise history. Though all 31 other teams have made at least one appearance on NBC, this is the very first time that the Texans will ever be on the network.
Houston's TJ Yates will also be making his first postseason appearance. Yates was the third-string quarterback for Houston at the start of the year, and he didn’t suit up for the first time until Week 12 after Matt Schaub was placed on IR. He was thrown into the action right away against the Jacksonville Jaguars when backup QB Matt Leinart was injured, and he has started ever since.
Yates’ best game was against these Bengals. He threw for 300 yards and two TDs against just one INT that day, and his best moment was in the dying seconds of the game. Yates led an 83-yard drive down the field in just over two minutes, capped by a touchdown pass to Kevin Walter with just 0:02 remaining at Paul Brown Stadium in the game that ultimately clinched Houston’s first playoff bid.
Of course, Yates hopes not to have to throw for 300 yards again this time around. This Houston team is one that prefers to do its damage on the ground. The team averaged 153.0 YPG rushing this year, No. 2 in the league, with Arian Foster and Ben Tate combining for over 2,100 rushing yards and a total of 16 TDs.
Foster only played in 13 games this year, but he had 1,224 rushing yards and was second on the team in reception (53) and receiving yards (617).
This game will also be a first playoff action for Cincinnati rookie Andy Dalton. They said that a redhead quarterback couldn’t get the job done in the NFL, but the former TCU Horned Frog has proven them all wrong.
Dalton threw for 3,398 yards and 20 TDs against 13 INTs this year, and led the Bengals (9-7 SU, 8-6-2 ATS) to a winning record in a season in which many thought that they would be the worst team in the league.
The worst news of all for Cincinnati is that it didn’t beat a playoff team this year. The Bengals' only win against a team that finished above .500 was a win in the first week of November against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. All seven losses this year came against postseason teams, and the Bengals only went 1-5-1 ATS in those duels.
Houston has owned this series of late, winning three straight SU and four straight ATS. The 20-19 win at Paul Brown Stadium marked the second time in three years that the Texans have gone on the road and won a game in the Queen City.
Cincinnati is 6-1-2 ATS in its last nine road games, but in the only trip to Reliant Stadium since Houston’s expansion season, the Bengals were crushed 35-6 in 2008.
The Texans, despite of a three-game skid to end the regular season, are 3-point favorites in their first postseason tilt. The total opened on Sunday night at 39, and has quickly dropped to 38.
The roof should be open at Reliant Stadium on Saturday. Temperatures are expected to top out around 70, and the game should be contested under mostly sunny skies.