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SATURDAY’S AFC WILD-CARD GAME

Texans, Bengals meet in wild-card game again

Andy Dalton (left) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis have helped carry the Bengals to three straight victories.

al behrman/associated press

Andy Dalton (left) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis have helped carry the Bengals to three straight victories.

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans were looking forward to enjoying a bye this week before beginning their work in the playoffs as the AFC’s top seed.

Instead, a terrible month in which they lost three of four games dropped the Texans to the third seed. It has them in the exact same spot as a year ago, hosting the Cincinnati Bengals in a wild-card playoff game Saturday.

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The Texans wasted little time this week lamenting their missed opportunities, though, instead focusing on their next task.

‘‘Would we like to be in a different situation? Yeah, but at the same time, it’s the playoffs. It’s the start of the playoffs. Everything you’ve done up to this point, it doesn’t really matter,’’ Houston’s Andre Johnson said. ‘‘It only matters what you do now . . . we just have to take advantage of the opportunity we have now.’’

They’ll face a Cincinnati team that has won three in a row and seven of its last eight games. The Bengals are in the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time since 1981-82. Their last playoff win came Jan. 6, 1991 against the Oilers, the team the Texans replaced in Houston.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked four times and threw three interceptions in last year’s 31-10 postseason loss to the Texans. Houston defensive end J.J. Watt returned one of those interceptions 29 yards for a touchdown that gave the Texans a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Dalton, who grew up in suburban Houston, believes he’s grown since that game and learned from the mistakes he made.

‘‘I definitely feel like I’m a better quarterback this year,’’ he said.

Another player who has certainly improved in Year 2 is Watt. The defensive end led the NFL with 20½ sacks this season, has 107 tackles, including 39 for losses, 16 passes defended, and has forced four fumbles.

Third-string quarterback T.J. Yates was behind center last year after injuries knocked out Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart. Now, Schaub, a nine-year veteran, will get his first postseason start.

He’s looking to bounce back from a tough month in which he threw three interceptions with just one touchdown pass. He’ll try to do it with two big weapons in Johnson and Arian Foster. Johnson led the AFC with a career-high 1,598 yards receiving, and Foster finished second in the AFC in rushing with 1,424 yards.

Houston’s offensive line will have its hands full with a defense that boasts two solid pass-rushers in tackle Geno Atkins and end Michael Johnson. The pair has combined for 24 sacks this season.

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