Bengals on offense: Andy Dalton often gets overlooked because there are so many dynamic young quarterbacks in the league right now, but it would be a mistake to underestimate this second-year player. The 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pounder has a very strong, accurate arm and has surprising athleticism. He has adjusted well to the pro game after taking most of his college snaps out of the shotgun. Dalton is well-prepared, smart, and effective at going to his secondary receivers. His primary receiver, of course, is the talented A.J. Green (1,350 yards, 11 TDs). Green (6-4, 207) has great size, strength, and body control. He runs precise routes and makes tough catches look routine. Andrew Hawkins (5-7, 180) lacks size but he is quick and elusive after the catch. Tight end Jermaine Gresham (6-5, 260) is a big, reliable target. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a strong inside runner who will occasionally flash some speed. He rarely gets knocked backward.
Texans on defense: J.J. Watt (81 tackles, 20½ sacks) and Bradie James (77 tackles) are always in the thick of the action. Defensive backs Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, and Danieal Manning all have returned INTs for TDs this season.
Texans on offense: Arian Foster (6-1, 228) has the size and strength to wear down defenses and open things up for the passing game. A hard-charging, upright runner, Foster has excellent vision and burst. He isn’t overly physical and often will look to get out of bounds rather than take on defenders. He needs to find his rhythm early, as he thrives on a heavy workload. Justin Forsett and Ben Tate are more-than-adequate backups. Matt Schaub (6-5, 239) is a big, strong QB with a strong arm. He is at his best when acting as a caretaker. When he’s asked to carry this offense, he struggles. Receiver Andre Johnson (6-3, 230) is speedy and strong. He quickly eats up defenders’ cushions, is fearless over the middle, and catches nearly everything thrown his way. Kevin Walter is quick and reliable, while tight end Owen Daniels is a top-notch receiver.
Bengals on defense: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been a tackling machine (127); the undrafted rookie plays as if he has something to prove. Fellow backer Rey Maualuga sticks his nose in everywhere. Geno Atkins (12½ sacks) is one of the NFL’s finest tackles, and end Michael Johnson (11½ sacks) brings heat off the edge.
Special teams: Josh Brown has nailed 11 of 12 field goal attempts, including a long of 56 yards, since taking over the Bengals’ job from Mike Nugent (injured reserve) . . . Brandon Tate has a 24.8-yard average on kickoff returns and an 8.9-yard average on 21 punt returns. Adam Jones also returns punts for the Bengals and he has an 11.6-yard average, including an 81-yard TD. Jones has 26 punt returns and zero fair catches . . . Punter Kevin Huber has a 46.6-yard average . . . Keshawn Martin (23.9 yards on kickoffs, 12.1 on punts) is Houston’s main return man . . . Shayne Graham has hit 31 of 38 field goals with a long of 52 yards . . . Punter Donnie Jones has a 47.2-yard average.
Miscellany: Houston coach Gary Kubiak is 1-1 in the postseason . . . Cincy’s Marvin Lewis is 0-3 . . . Texans beat Bengals, 31-10, in wild-card round last January . . . Cincinnati hasn’t won a playoff game since beating Houston in 1990 season. That would be the Houston Oilers . . . Bengals are 6-2 on the road . . . Texans are 6-0 at home vs. AFC . . . Green-Ellis’s 1,094 rushing yards are a career high . . . This is Schaub’s first postseason start. He was hurt last year.