Bengals at Texans: Momentum and other things
The regular season in football is a tricky exercise in momentum. Here stand the Houston Texans. They’re 12-4. They’re division winners. And yet, they feel like the biggest losers coming into the tournament.
On the other side, the Bengals have temporarily (the permanency comes if they can keep outperforming our expectations next season) displaced the order of things in the AFC North. Their Week 16 matchup at Pittsburgh was a pseudo play-in game. If the Bengals won, they were in. Many would have expected the more experienced Steelers to make another late season run, and become the team that no one wanted to play in the post-season.
Instead, the Bengals inched past their division rival by a field goal, and became the team no one really thought would actually end up in the post-season.
And here they are, two consecutive playoff appearances for this franchise, which is no small feat. Miss you, Carson Palmer. Or maybe not.
Andy Dalton is not exciting, but he does enough. The defense is not glamorous, but they do have one of the strongest past rushes in the league. A.J. Green, maybe already the best wideout in football. This is a rematch of last year’s wild card match-up, the Bengals remain a house money team in the playoffs, they are a work in progress for which playoff experience will only help for their core group.
As for the Texans. They’re learning how tough expectations can be in the NFL. A year ago, they finally made the playoffs for the first time since the franchise returned to Houston. They were so banged up that T.J. Yates was their starting quarterback. They were also house money. It was a season worth celebrating.
This season, they seemed to have made the leap. But a late season swoon and unimpressive showings against Green Bay and New England during the regular season have left much to be desired from this team.
I suppose much of what you expect from this game depends on just how much you believe in momentum, and all those other fancy narratives.
I still think the Texans are the better team, and they rebound on Sunday.
What does everybody else think?