With the start of Wild Card weekend only a couple days away, experts have already started their predictions for the Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Giants and the Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints.
Even if you aren't in a fantasy football playoff league, there is still some useful info to be looked at regarding the matchups. Below is part 1 of 4 of a series that will analyze all 4 games (AFC and NFC). And make sure to check out our NFL Playoff Fantasy Football Rankings for all the info you need heading into the weekend.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Houston Texans
It's amazing that the Bengals (9-7) made it to the playoffs at all considering all the turmoil the team went through in the offseason, including the "Will he stay or will he go?" soap opera with Marvin Lewis. Rookie Andy Dalton wasn't supposed to have a prayer as a rookie and Cedric Benson was, well, Cedric Benson. The Texans (10-6) finally made it to the big dance and won the AFC South mainly due to Peyton Manning's season ending neck injury. Both teams played back in Week 14, with the Texans squeaking out a win by a score of 20-19 in Cincinnati. This time around, playing IN Houston will give the Texans the edge.
I expect a big game from Arian Foster, who had only 41 yards in the first meeting. The Bengals Defense gave up 18 fantasy points a game to running backs, but Foster should easily surpass that in, what I consider to be, a heavy ground attack for the Texans. After practicing fully on Wednesday, TJ Yates will get the start, despite suffering a separated shoulder near the end of the regular season. His 300-yard performance in the first meeting will speak volumes as to how well he'll play Saturday. Owen Daniels led the team in receiving with 100 yards off 7 catches, mainly due to Andre Johnson being MIA with a hamstring injury, but look for Johnson to have his usual big game against a suspect Bengals secondary.
I don't expect a lot of offense from Dalton. His 189 passing yards and 1 touchdown will likely be repeated. As for Benson, I don't think he will top his 91 rushing yards from the first game. The Texans Defense ranked No. 2 against fantasy running backs, giving up only 14 points a game. I expect the same type of defensive play this week. So if you can, avoid taking Benson, even if you can carry his points over for the next week. AJ Green will be the best fantasy option out of the bunch. In PPR leagues, he scored 10 points in the first meeting, which isn't bad considering he won't be anything more than a possible WR3 in playoff formats.
Final Score: 24-13
Like I wrote earlier, I don't expect the Bengals to pull out an upset. I would even be surprised if they managed to keep the score as close as it was in the first meeting. The wild card will be if the Bengals can keep Foster in check, which I don't see happening.