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A.J. Green leads Bengals to key win vs. Texans

Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals might hate playing against the Texans in the playoffs, but they took care of business 22-13 on the road Sunday. Here's what we learned:

  1. It's good to have A.J. Green back in the lineup. He set a career high with 12 catches, seemingly all of them contested catches on third-and-long. Green's ability to high point passes was the key to Cincinnati maintaining the ball for more than 39 minutes. Watching cornerbacks Darryl Morris and A.J. Bouye try to cover Green was unfair.
  1. Ryan Mallett couldn't back up his solid first NFL start. He looked awful from the first minute of this game, throwing high, wide and consistently off the mark. His inaccurate passes reminded us of his preseason games in New England. His misses were usually unforced errors where he gave his receivers absolutely no chance to make a play. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the QB aggravated a pectoral injury during pregame warmups, perhaps explaining his erratic play.
  1. Andy Dalton was responsible for Houston's only touchdown, but he actually played a strong game overall. If you take away Dalton's pick six, he played outstandingly for a second consecutive week -- we didn't chart him for a bad pass until deep into the third quarter, and he made a number of pinpoint throws. The Bengals have found an identity with long drives on the road the last two weeks, with Dalton bouncing back strong from his meltdown against Cleveland.
  1. At 7-3-1, the Bengals lead the AFC North. They have won two straight on the road and head to Tampa next week. Their offense has found a nice balance with Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill splitting carries. It was Hill's versatility to pick up a third down as a receiver late in the game that ultimately prevented Houston from getting the ball back with a realistic chance to win.
  1. The Bengals lost offensive tackle Andre Smithto a triceps injury that could jeopardize his season.
  1. The Texans aren't quite out of the playoff race at 5-6, because they face Jacksonville and Tennessee next. But they looked like the vastly inferior team here against another AFC contender. Eight wins would be an accomplishment for this season.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Sunday game from Week 12 and discusses Ryan Tannehill's progression. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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