NFL Wild Card
The Cincinnati Bengals and the Houston Texans will get the 2012-2013 NFL playoffs started on Saturday with a Wild Card match up in Houston in what will be a rematch of their Wild Card game a year ago. That was a game that the Texans dominated on their way to a 31-10 win. This time around, the Texans are once again favored, this time by -4.5 points at 5 Dimes Sportsbook with a total of 43.
An ideal situation for a football team (or any team) is to make it back to the very spot where their season ended a year ago. A 2nd chance. A chance to right a wrong. A do over. It's rare in sports. Just ask the Giants, Saints, Steelers and Lions, playoff teams from a year ago who are now on the outside looking in. Here the Bengals not only get a 2nd chance in the Wild Card round of the playoffs but they also get to revenge that loss against the same team in the same location as a year ago.
At one point this season it looked as though the Texans were on their way to at the very least, the AFC title game. After 12 weeks they were 11-1 and looked as though they could do no wrong. Then they ran into the New England Patriots and were blown off the field 42-14 in a game that gave them the chance to shine under the lights of a prime time audience. That was failure #1 in a big spot. They rebounded by beating the Colts at home, 29-17 as most expected they would but then came up short in the final two weeks by losing 23-6 to the Vikings and 28-16 to the Colts. That was failure #'s 2 and 3 in big spots.
True, their season wasn't on the line. Perhaps they started to believe in their own press clippings a little too much and too a certain extent, you could almost excuse them, sitting at 11-1 and then 12-2 with two games to play. The urgency wasn't there. But it's very difficult to back a team in the playoffs in off that kind of a momentum killer.
But you also have to take a closer look at the Texans 2nd half of the season. Specifically giving up 37 points to the Jags, 31 to the Lions, 42 to the Pats and then 23 and 28 to the Vikings and Colts. Glance over to the Bengals 2nd half of their season and you'll find just the opposite. They won 7 of their last 8 games while giving up 13, 6, 10, 13, 20, 13, 10 and 17 points. In that stretch the Bengals yards per point numbers were 12.5 on offense and 19.9 on defense for a +7.4 differential. In that same span, the Texans were 17.1 and 14.4 for a -2.7 differential. That's a 10 point edge in favor of the Bengals over the 2nd half of the season.
The Texans are a better team at home and this year, unlike last year, they have a healthy Schaub at QB, but it's very hard to recommend the Texans when you take into account the current form of both teams. They appear to be teams headed in opposite directions. At the very least, the Bengals are a very live dog. Bengals +4.5