Cincinnati (5-8-1) at Houston (8-6)
When: Saturday, December 24th 2016
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Time: 8:25 ET | TV: NFL Network
The Cincinnati Bengals have a chance to play spoiler in the final two weeks of the season and their first chance will be on Christmas Eve against the Houston Texans. Cincinnati’s disappointing season was effectively ended last week at home to rival Pittsburgh 24-20 when they were shutout in the second half of the defeat. The Bengals looked to be making a run towards the playoffs with two blowout wins over Philadelphia and Cleveland, but the loss to the Steelers eliminated them. The offense should get a jolt on Saturday with the probable return of star wideout A.J. Green, who has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury. Green still leads the team with 66 catches and 964 yards receiving. Running back Jeremy Hill was held to just 43 yards on 20 carries last week against the Steelers after exploding for 111 the week prior. Both of his 100 yard running performances this season have come against the winless Browns. Cincinnati’s defense has held four of the last five opponents to under 20 points and are ranked 11th in that category (20.9). The Bengals will host first place Baltimore next week to finish the season.
The Texans have a lot more to play for in this one as they to wrap up a playoff berth with a win and some help. Houston is currently tied with the Tennessee Titans for first place in the AFC South, but own the tiebreaker by virtue of their head-to-head win and their 5-0 division mark. The Texans almost put themselves in a horrible position last week when they fell behind the lowly Jaguars before rallying in the fourth quarter behind backup QB Tom Savage. Coach Bill O’Brien benched his $72 million QB Brock Osweiler after two interceptions and will go with Savage on Saturday. Osweiler is last among 31 qualifying quarterbacks with an average of 5.75 yards per attempt and tied for second in the league with 16 interceptions, prompting O’Brien to make the change and tell reporters, “We don’t make decisions on how much a guy gets paid.” Savage threw for 260 yards and averaged 7.2 per attempt in his chance against the Jaguars. Houston will already know the outcome of Tennessee’s game with Jacksonville before taking the field. Next week’s game in Nashville could decide it all.
I like taking teams late in the season who have nothing to play for like I did on Monday night with Carolina. Savage didn’t have time to get nervous when he came in last week and performed well. Cincinnati’s defense will be ready for him and the return of Green should help the Bengals put some points on the board.
Pick: Bengals PK