Thanks to the heroics of rookie QB Andy Dalton, rookie WR A.J. Green, and a defense ranked 7th in the league, the Cincinnati Bengals have exceeded all expectations and returned to the playoffs as a Wild Card. This will be their third trip to the playoffs under head coach Marvin Lewis, but Cincinnati fans are longing for something they haven't seen since Andy Dalton was a three-year-old-- a playoff win!
On January 6, 1990, the Bengals won at Riverfront Stadium against the hated Houston Oilers thanks to a flurry of scoring that began with a rushing TD by Ickey Woods and finished with QB Boomer Esiason scrambling for 10 yards to put the Bengals up 34-0.
Esiason, Woods, and even the Oilers are no longer in the NFL, but the Bengals have another playoff game against Houston on Saturday afternoon.
The Houston Texans have made the playoffs for the first time in their 10-season history of the franchise thanks to the NFL's #2 defense and a lot of depth at the quarterback position. After QBs Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart suffered season-ending injuries, rookie T.J. Yates led the Texans to the AFC South title.
The Bengals know what Yates is capable of after he led the Texans on two long 4th-quarter scoring drives to win at Paul Brown Stadium on December 11. Yates was knocked out of the Texans' Week 17 game against Tennessee.
The Texans hope that both Yates and WR Andre Johnson (recovering from injuries to both hamstrings) will be able to return for the first NFL playoff game at Reliant Stadium.
"We were very, very lucky [to defeat the Bengals]. We know we won't get away with that type of effort this weekend."
-- Texans head coach Gary Kubiak
Which scrappy young contender will advance? Will the Bengals rise to the challenge on the road?
Note: If the Bengals win this game, they will play at #1 New England on Saturday at 8:00 PM, while the winner of the Steelers-Broncos game will play at #2 Baltimore on Sunday at 1:00 PM.
If the Texans win, the winner of the Steelers-Broncos game will play at #1 New England on Saturday, while the Texans will play at #2 Baltimore on Sunday.