Despite having either T.J. Yates or Jake Delhomme under center, Gary Kubiak has a good shot at getting his first playoff win. The Texans and Bengals played a nip-and-tuck game in Cincy in Week 14, and I expect the same in Houston this weekend. Both teams play tough defense and run the ball, and both will hope to get one or two big plays out of their star wide receivers. Gimme the home team to get it done here.
I also wouldn't be stunned to see Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson come out ahead in a Superdome shootout; no one has stopped that Detroit offense in a month. Matter of fact, the Saints and Lions literally might combine to score 100 points... and yes, I know the difference between "literally" and "figuratively."
I'm double dipping and saying Atlanta's Mike Smith and Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis get wins -- on the road, no less.
Houston did not play well down the stretch, and the Bengals will be in a dome, with a defense that is stout when it needs to be. I foresee an upset, with the Bengals flipping the script on last month's one-point loss to the Texans.
The Falcons are a different (worse) team on the road and outside, but if their defense stays disciplined, they can get Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan their first postseason victories. The key for Atlanta is to not fall behind early. If the Falcons go into the second quarter down by a touchdown or more, they tend to get out of character offensively and fail to get into a rhythmic flow.
Two of the winless coaches will face off in Houston, so let's stick with Gary Kubiak. The Bengals have meandered through the season, so much so that their fans barely realized the team was in a playoff chase. The Texans, on the other hand, will be in front of a crowd getting its first taste of postseason action since the Oilers left. The fans will be so energized by this that they might end up willing Houston to victory.
Aside from a rough game against the Texans in Week 13, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has finally started to look more like the quarterback so many of us have expected him to be four years into his career. Since Week 11, he's been quietly killing secondaries, amassing 15 touchdowns against just two interceptions (both of the picks came in that Houston game). As long as the Falcons can find a way to slow down Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, I'm convinced you'll see an Atlanta team -- fueled by Ryan's recent success -- hitting its stride with a win against the Giants.
The Texans have the best shot of winning of the above group, which would give Gary Kubiak his first win. While the game should be very close, I like the fact that the Houston crowd will be a factor. Secondly, Arian Foster will be running on two weeks rest. Meanwhile, Houston's defense has played very well this season and will pressure Andy Dalton. The Bengals will have to rely on their running game to a large extent. I'll take Foster and Ben Tate over Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott.
T.J. Yates will have to do just enough to win. He played a nice game in Cincinnati a few weeks back, delivering his team to a late win. My sense is that while he may not repeat that performance, he will be effective enough for Houston to prevail.