TWD Sports Saturday Thread #1 For 1/5/13: High Volume of Wattage...

Final: Texans 19, Bengals 13

 The O and D-lines were strong today for the Texans (Photo from

When it came down to it, Andy Dalton and Rey Maualaga needed huge days to win on the road, and they just did not produce it.

It was one thing for the Bengals to lose the line of scrimmage battle, but for the two guys Marvin Lewis called out in the middle of the season, they gave performances where you have to ask yourself if Cincinnati is going to have the guys to lead their team in big games the next year or two.

For Houston, their line of scrimmage and Foster showed how elite they are in the run. And the energy on defense from Quin, Barwin and others to help Watt is something they to re-find what made them elite.

Schaub showed composure to make the game winning throw to ice it, but he still was far from title winning convincing today.

Halftime Thoughts and Adjustments: 

Arian Foster has had his way so far. But can his quarterback not make constantly throws in the 2nd Half? (Photo from

For Cincinnati: 

That was woeful gameplaying from offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. To not design any plays for A.J. Green like he's inactive represents how totally anemic the Bengals' were moving the ball.

Leon Hall having more receptions than Green? Embarrassing.

Defensively, linebacker Rey Maualaga had a terrible first half, taking bad angles in both pass coverage and reading the red. He has to step up and be a leader out there instead of a by standard, as Geno Atkins and the D-line have been contained because of great run blocking by the Texans O-Line and superb vision once again by Arian Foster.

For Houston: 

Matt Schaub, when it comes to the key throws in a big game, has failed to be elite. Though Hall did terrifically to INT, Schaub still got baited into a simple throw without redaing his coverage. And he must drive throws on the money when he has time, something he failed to do for Andre Johnson, resulting in another field goal from solid Shayne Graham.

Other than that, an effective first half for Gary Kubiak's men. They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides. But will Schaub make the right decisions to go along with that is the major question.

First Version: 

In terms of late game injury reports for Cincinnati, Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis' hamstring is okay for him to go. For the Texans, every player expected to play this week is a-go for the game. We'll be right back with the lineups and the keys for Cincinnati and Houston. 

The Lineup and Depth Chart: 

For the Texans, both the offensive line and Matt Schaub had a rough month of December. Uncomfortable against New England with the absence of backup tight end Garrett Graham to run their multiple tight end sets, Houston's quarterback and his protection unit come into wild card weekend in questionable form.

Even worst however for the AFC South winner of late however has been their defense, as the lost of ubiquitous signal caller Brian Cushing has tickled down to a defense not ready to stop the pass. CB's Kareem Jackson and Brice McCain and free safety Glover Quin have seen the back of receiver's numbers a lot lately. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips needs to find a way for his defense to be more than J.J. Watt if they want to avoid the fitting conclusion to a late season collapse.

Major questions around the quarterback also center around Marvin Lewis' team, with Andy Dalton not growing into a top tier quarterback this season. It's understandable considering how his offensive line have not protected him at all this year, allowing 46 sacks.

It's the eact opposite scenario for Cincinnati's defense, arguably boasting the best past rush in the NFL. Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, and rookie Vontaze Burfact are the standouts of a formidable front 7, although Rey Maualuga as the signal caller of the D doesn't play to his great potential from time to time.

Although the secondary as a collective is not as formidable as D-line and linebackers, strong safety Reggie Nelson arguably is the league's most underrated at that position. Solid in coverage and dynamic on blitz schemes, the Florida alum deserved Pro Bowl recognition as he turned it on in the 2nd half of the season.

Keys to the Game: 

With the momentum firmly on a motivated Bengals side, the Texans with all their injury concerns need Matt Schaub to at least balance out for Arian Foster. The stretch running play is something Cincinnati couldn't stop in their last several meetings against Houston, something that AFC South winners could use to perfection to slow down the vaunted Bengals' pass rush.

Both quarterbacks have the dynamic top tier receivers to make huge plays, but someone vertically needs to do something besides Andre Johnson and A.J. Green to secure the win today.

This one is truly a 50/50 one to decide, and the absence of slot receiver Mohammad Samu for Cincinnati is a key loss. Schaub is not convincing in big game situations and that Texans' secondary has been awful.

But I think he finds a way to bounce back with Graham returning, and Houston barely wins today 20-17. 
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