While the fact that the Houston Texans are starting a rookie QB has been held against them in much of the lead-up to the 2011 NFL playoffs, the Cincinnati Bengals are lining up a fellow inexperienced play-caller in TCU product Andy Dalton.
As a result, most of the national media is giving a slight edge to Houston based on their superior body of work as well as their home-field advantage.
At the SBNation mothership, Andrew Sharp likes that the Texans don't need Yates to play well to win, taking Houston as a -3 favorite:
So maybe the difference between these two teams is this: The Texans don't need T.J. Yates to be good for them to win on Saturday. Either way they've still got a defense that will attack all game long, and a running game (Arian Foster, Ben Tate) that can pace the offense and control the ball. Yates doesn't need to bring much to the table, so long as he doesn't take too much off it.
At Sports Illustrated, the long-time NFL writer and extremely connected Peter King is buying the Texans, in particular their strong ground game, predicting a nail-biting 19-17 victory for the home team:
This could come down to who runs the ball better, which is why I'm going with 2010 rushing champ Arian Foster and Ben Tate, who ran for 2,166 yards between them -- and nearly five yards per carry.
After their bye week, though, the Texans faced a group of six teams that finished with a record of 41-55 and went 3-3 while being outscored by four points. Too much is often made about the idea that teams need to be "hot" and have momentum heading into the playoffs, but there's little indication that this Texans team much resembles the unit that beat up on the Steelers in Week 4.
Over at NFL.com, Albert Breer thinks that the Houston's ability to dominate the line of scrimmage will be the difference in a low-scoring 19-16 Texans victory:
It's hard for me to shake the image of Ray Rice running wild through the Cincinnati secondary last week for touchdowns of 70 and 51 yards. I think the Texans, likewise, will be able to control the pace of the game on the ground, and keep T.J. Yates' responsibilities limited just enough to survive another week.
And in a sign that no one is all that confident in picking a game between two rookies QB's, ESPN's panel of ten football experts split 6-4 in favor of the Texans.