The Houston Texans will host the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday in the opening round of the 2012 NFL playoffs. The Texans enter the game banged up and depleted by injuries, but hold home-field advantage and a superior regular-season record.
Many of the nation's football experts and columnists have released their predictions for the opening round of the postseason, to go along with SB Nation's take on Cincinnati's chances in the game and the reasons why the Texans might be favored to win.
Sports Illustrated has released their picks and predictions for the entire NFL offseason. Six of the eight contributors select the Texans to win the game. All of those contributors have Houston then losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the following round. The two contributors who selected the Bengals to win anticipate that the Bengals would then lose to the Patriots in the second round.
ESPN has released their picks for the Wild-Card Weekend. The results there are decidedly more even. Between the eight columnists and two aggregators, five select the Texans to win, while five select the Bengals.
If there was any doubt that the game is anticipated to be evenly-matched and close, CBS Sports provides just one opinion as means of expert pick for the game, provided by Pete Prisco. He predicts that the game will finish with a final score of 20-17 in favor of the visiting Bengals. Here's what Prisco has to say:
This is a rematch from a Week 14 game when rookie T.J. Yates rallied the Texans from behind with a last-second touchdown pass to give Houston a 21-19 victory. The Texans haven't won since. They have struggled on offense and the defense has had its share of troubles. The Bengals went 2-1 since then. This should be a battle of rookie passers with Yates against Andy Dalton. The Bengals dominated the early part of the first game, so I think that will show up here again. The key will be Houston's second-ranked rushing offense against Cincinnati's 10th-ranked rushing defense. If the Bengals can stop Arian Foster, and put the pressure on Yates, they can steal a road playoff victory. The Texans were second in total defense, so Dalton faces a stiff challenge. This has the makings of a low-scoring tight game. I'll take the more experienced rookie quarterback, and that's Dalton.
The jury seems to be out on this game, as it figures to be the hardest to predict in the first weekend of playoffs.
For more on the Bengals, be sure to check out the SB Nation blog Cincy Jungle. For more on the Texans, head over to Battle Red Blog. Stay tuned to this StoryStream for more updates on Saturday's game.