The 2012 AFC Wild Card matchup between Cincinnati and Houston could hinge on the running game -- more specifically, the Bengals defense vs. the Texans rushing attack.
Houston boasts the No. 2 rushing offense in the NFL, led by duo of Arian Foster and his backup, Ben Tate. Meanwhile the Bengals run defense has fallen apart over the course of the season. Cincinnati allowed just one team to rush for more than 100 yards in its first eight games, but has been run over during the second half of the season -- including a gashing at the hands of the Texans in a Week 14 loss.
SB Nation's Bengals blog, Cincy Jungle, takes a look at Bengals declining rush defense, which still ranks No. 10 in the league in yards allowed per game:
In Week 14 they played the Houston Texans, who, of course, they play on Saturday in the wildcard round of the playoffs. They went into the locker room at halftime with a 16-3 lead but they ended up losing the game by a score of 20-19. That was largely thanks to a second-half collapse but the fact that the Bengals allowed the Texans to run for 144 yards against them can also be blamed. For those of you keeping track, that's five games in a row that the Bengals allowed a team to run for over 100 yards against them.
On Saturday the Bengals face the Texans in the playoffs. They had given up 100 yards on the ground in six of their last eight games and as a result they had lost five of those games, including one to the Texans. If the Bengals are not able to contain the Texans' running game consisting of Arian Foster and Ben Tate, their chances of heading to New England to play the Patriots in the divisional round drop dramatically.
Complete Article: Bengals Struggled Against The Run In Second Half Of 2011
For more on this 2012 AFC Playoff matchup, follow our comprehensive Bengals vs. Texans StoryStream. Get the latest news and fan perspective at our Bengals blog, Cincy Jungle and our Texans blog, Battle Red Blog.