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    09/07/2011 10:47 PM
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Saturday NFL Playoff Game Cincinnati at Houston, Start Time & Free Pick

The 2011 NFL Playoffs Begin on Saturday when the Cincinnati Bengals travel to the Lone Star State to take on the Houston Texans.  The game is scheduled for a 4:30 pm kickoff and will be televised live on NBC. Currently Houston is favored by 4 points with the total being set at 38 for this game. The last time the Houston Texans faced the Cincinnati Bengals, the 10-year-old franchise locked up its first-ever trip to the playoffs. While this won't be Cincinnati's first dance in the postseason, the Bengals were able to press fast forward on their development curve to grab a surprise spot in the NFL's second season.

Free Analysis:  The Bengals are 0-7 against playoff teams and own just one victory over a team with a winning record (Tennessee, 9-7). Cincinnati has gone 8-6-1 ATS this year overall and 4-1 ATS on grass surfaces this year, but just 1-5-2 ATS during the second half of the season. Cincinnati rookie QB Andy Dalton has had a solid season with 3,398 passing yards, 20 TD and 13 INT. He’s thrown only one interception in his past six games, but has just 5 TD passes and has struggled with his accuracy in this stretch (56%). Dalton had a decent showing against Houston’s excellent pass defense (190 YPG, 3rd in NFL) in the Dec. 11 meeting, completing 16-of-28 passes for 189 yards, 1 TD and 0 INT. Cedric Benson had a nice year with 1159 combined yards, but he nearly had as many fumbles (5) as TD's (6). Though Dalton, Benson and AJ Green (1057 yards and 7 TD's) played well this year, the Bengals' offense was still in the bottom tier as far as performance. Cincinnati ranked 18th in the regular season with an average of 21.5 points per game and finished 20th in total offense with 319.9 yards per game. The Bengals' seventh-ranked defense (316.3 ypg) should turn a ton of focus towards Foster after the unit was tagged last week by Baltimore's Ray Rice, who ripped off touchdown runs of 70 and 51 yards. Cincinnati, which ranks 10th against the run (104.all the injuries they have on offense. 7 ypg), will need its solid linebacking group to spy Foster. The Bengals' secondary took a hit when it lost cornerback Leon Hall (32 tackles) to injury at midseason, but they were still able to finish 9th in the league vs the pass, allowing just 211.6 ypg, while the Bengals also finished 9th in points allowed. Without Schaub (2479 passing yards, 15 TD, 6 INT) and having Johnson limited for most of the season, running back Arian Foster (1224 rushing yards, 53 receptions, 12 total TD) became the main focus of Houston's offense, and the reigning league rushing champion helped his club rank second in the NFL with a franchise-record 153 yards per game on the ground. In addition to being one the top rushers in the league, Foster was second on the team with 617 receiving yards and led the NFL with an average of 141.6 scrimmage yards per game.  A successful Foster should take the pressure off of Yates (949 passing yards, 3 TD, 3 INT) in this big game, and a healthy Johnson (33 receptions, 2 TD) should also help. Houston was second overall in total defense with an average of 285.7 yards allowed per game and fourth with 17.4 points allowed per outing. After struggling vs the pass ;ast year the Houston defense bounced back ranking 3rd vs the pass this year (189.7 ypg). This is one tough defensive unit and they needed to be, especially with the way the offense struggled down the stretch, due to all the injuries.The Texas went 9-5-2 ATS overall and 4-2-2, while they have also gone 8-2-2 ATS on grass this year. Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis has gone 2-3 against Houston during his nine-year tenure as the Bengals' head coach, while Kubiak sports a 3-0 record against both Cincinnati and Lewis as a head man. The Bengals are 0-2 in playoff games under Lewis. 

Free Pick: Defense, defense defense. That's what this game will be all about.  The Houston Texans come in ranked in the NFL's top five in total defense, against the run and the pass and scoring defense. This is a defense that really needed to play well this year, especially down the stretch when injuries ravaged their offense. The Houston offense had averaged 27.3 ppg through their first 10 games, but once Schaub went out they then put up just 18 ppg in their last 6 games. Houston has really turned to their run game down the stretch and i expect the to use it here as well as they won't take many chances with rookie QB TJ Yates. I expect the Bengals to use the same game plan with Benson, as they will also not look to take chances with their rookie QB. The Bengal defense has really been tough this year as well as they rank in the top 10 in Total defense, rushing defense, passing defense and points allowed and they should be able to hold down this Houston offense that has struggled down the stretch. Both teams will really take the conservative approach here as they won't take chances with their rookie QB, plus it also doesn't hurt to have 2 of the best all around defenses on the field as well. I just don't see how this game can hit 38 points. Go with the Under here.

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