My impression of yesterday's action is that everything pretty much went to script. Arian Foster ran well which set up the play-action pass for Matt Schaub. One phase of the game that stood out was the manner in which Texans tight ends Owen Daniel and Garrett Graham consistently beat the Cincinnati linebackers, Rey Maualuga in particular, on crossing patterns for catches of 10-15 yards. Since Andre Johnson was largely held in check this was critical; it prevented the Bengals from keying on Arian Foster and making the Houston offense one-dimensional.
The Texans have a good defense. J.J. Watt played with his usual intensity. Andy Dalton seem harried. Jonathan Joseph bottled up A.J. Green until the second half. All in all it was a good game.
The conventional wisdom is that the Patriots will repeat their Week 14 demolition of the Texans. It's hard to find fault with this. Cincinnati wideouts had Houston defensive backs beaten long several times but Dalton couldn't connect. Unless Tom Brady is having a rare off day the Texans won't be so lucky in Foxborough. I'll be rooting for Houston though.
One thing that didn't go to script yesterday was the game-day scratch of Christian Ponder because of a bruised triceps. Joe Webb started and on the opening drive ran the read option and Minnesota almost scored a touchdown but ended up having to settle for a field goal. This was the last hurrah for the Vikings. For some reason Minnesota abandoned the read option and Webb started to pass from the pocket. He had no touch. He short-hopped balls or threw out of bounds. On defense the Packers were able to keep Adrian Peterson from getting to the edge. Green Bay basically had the game won by the end of the first half.
When Joe Webb filled in a couple games for an injured Brett Favre at the end of 2010 season I was excited. He was big and fast and could throw; he changed the whole vibe of the game on offense; he beat the Eagles. I thought he was going to be a player to watch in 2011. But then the Vikings made the poor decision to sign Donovan McNabb who was a washout with the Washington Redskins. Then when McNabb was benched Ponder got the start. Webb disappeared until now. It's too bad he didn't run more out of the pocket last night.
While not playing spectacularly, Aaron Rodgers performed at exactly the level needed to notch a convincing win against a gritty divisional opponent. My concern going into Candlestick Park next week is what Aldon Smith is going to do. Rodgers has taken a lot of sacks this year. It's hard not to pick the 49ers in this one. Unless Green Bay's defense really steps up and shuts down Kaepernick and creates some turnovers the 49ers are going to the NFC Championship Game.