Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans (-3, 38.5)Texans’ pass defense vs. Andy Dalton
Shutdown corner Johnathan Joseph sat out last week’s meaningless game vs. Tennessee so he’ll be ready to shadow A.J. Green
Houston owns the NFL’s fifth-best pass coverage unit and fourth-best pass rush, according to Pro Football Focus. Coordinator Wade Phillips, who missed Houston’s losses to Carolina and Indy while recovering from surgery, will call the game from the press box.
Reliant Stadium will be rocking for the first playoff game in franchise history.
None of that bodes well for Dalton.
After a sizzling start, the rookie faltered over the last seven games, completing 54.8 percent of his throws with eight touchdowns and eight turnovers. His struggles will continue Saturday.
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints (-10.5, 58.5)
Saints’ weapons vs. Wishful thinking
Detroit is making a big deal out of the return of safety Louis Delmas, who missed the past five games with a torn MCL in his right knee. There’s no question he’s the Lions’ defensive leader, but it’s not like he’s 100 percent.
“He’s trending in the right direction and hope we’ll be able to get him out there,” coach Jim Schwartz said. "He’s a guy that we drafted to be one of the cornerstones defensively. He’s right in the middle of our defense, does a good job of communication. He’s a very good player -- run and pass, covers a lot of ground. But more than that, (he) brings a lot of soul to our defense. I think that’s one of the things that we miss."
Lions backers also note that Ndamukong Suh missed the 31-17 loss in New Orleans in Week 13. But he was on the field last week when Detroit, playing to win, gave up 480 passing yards and six TDs to Matt Flynn.
You know all about Drew Brees’ record season and his array of targets including Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson and Darren Sproles. You may not know New Orleans ranks sixth in rushing (129.9 yards per game) and fourth in yards per carry (4.9).
Detroit ranks 23rd in run defense (128.1) and gives up 5.0 yards per carry, tied for 29th.Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants (-3, 47)
Giants’ pass rush vs. Uncomfortable Falcons
Atlanta is playing outdoors for just the second time since Week 4.
Matt Ryan is a much different passer on the road. In 30 career home games, Rotoworld’s Evan Silva notes, Ryan is 26-4 with a 64.8 percent completion rate and a 49-17 TD-INT ratio. He averages 7.6 yards per attempt in the Georgia Dome. In 32 road games, here are Matty Ice’s numbers: 17-15, 58.1 percent completion rate, 46-29 TD-INT ratio, and 6.7 yards per attempt.
The Falcons’ stabilized their line by replacing left tackle Sam Baker with Will Svitek, but they’ve played only one decent defense over their last seven games.
Now they face a unit that has 11 sacks and a forced fumble the last two weeks. Jason Pierre-Paul is on fire with 37 tackles and six sacks in his last five games. Justin Tuck is regaining his Pro Bowl form. Osi Umenyiora returned last week from knee and ankle injuries and got two sacks.
Tuck can play tackle, enabling New York to get several pass rushers on the field at once. Against Dallas, the Giants harassed Tony Romo without blitzing.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (9, 34)Miller, Dumervil vs. Immobile Big Ben
Ben Roethlisberger aggravated his high ankle sprain against the Browns, and the Steelers failed to cover.
He was hobbling around on his left ankle late in the week.
"I felt really good going in the Cleveland game," Roethlisberger said. "I had a little setback early in the third quarter, so we're working really hard right now with the trainers and doctors to get back to even where we were before the Cleveland game.
"Because I felt pretty good going in, I moved [around] a little bit at the beginning of that game, but (there was) a little setback. ... We got set back by about a week."
In two games since returning from the injury, Big Ben has completed 48 of 84 passes (57 percent) for 551 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s not the same when he can’t move around, plant hard and fire.
Linebacker Von Miller has 11.5 sacks, DE Elvis Dumervil has 9.5 and OLB D.J. Williams has five. The Broncos are tied for 10th with 41 sacks.
"I'm not looking at it like he's hurt. I'm looking at it like he's out there and as long as you're out there, I'm going to come at you," Dumervil said.