On to the defense.
The Bengals pass defense is currently ranked 7th. The secondary has played extremely well since recovering some of their starters from injuries early on in the season. Per game, the pass defense is allowing a total of just 212.5 yards, which is about 10 yards less than the Bengals manage themselves.
Houston’s pass defense is allowing 225.8 yards per game, which is good for 16th in the league this year. This ranking has slipped a bit in recent weeks due to some injuries to the Texans secondary.
The edge should obviously go the Bengals here. They are healthier, and more importantly, playing better. Matt Schaub will have a difficult time attacking the Bengals through the air. Especially with the pressure he will have to face in passing situations.
Now, the rush defense.
The Bengals’ rush defense is allowing just 107.2 yards per game, which is 12th in the NFL this season. They have been very productive under Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer.
Meanwhile in Houston, the Texans are allowing just 97.5 yards per game on the ground. They have a 7th rush defense ranking to along with that solid number. J.J. Watt is inhuman.
This one is very close. The Bengals have actually been playing better defense against the run down the stretch, even against teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the final two weeks. However, I think the Texans will be given a slight edge in this one, based on the numbers.
The special teams remains fairly even for the two teams, although Adam “Pacman” Jones has the potential to create some fireworks returning punts for the Bengals. A big play by either team in this category could easily be the difference maker in a close game like this.