Between the Texans and the Bengals this Saturday, I pick …

Let’s talk sports. Why? Why do I always ask myself that? I don’t know. I really shouldn’t be talking to myself while writing “my blog.” But after all, it is “my blog.” Enough said? Stop that!

The Houston Texans make their playoff debut this Saturday at Reliant Stadium. If I had a few hundred bucks to throw around I would buy a ticket and try to find a hotel close to the MetroRail. But I don’t. So I will have to watch it on television. That is probably just as well. Even though the noise level will likely be turned up in Reliant by Texans fans, I am uncomfortable screaming profanities out loud in public, even if no one can hear them. I expect a few profanities from my way.

Many folks, both those learned in sports and those who just shoot off their mouths seem to think that the three losses the Texans suffered since they beat Saturday’s opponent, the Bengals, have something to do with whether Houston can rise to the challenge in their first post-season game in history. This is while others compare them to or see them an offshoot of the Oilers, that once-beloved team that left long ago to become the hated Tennessee Titans. Well, let’s take this sordid history apart.

1. The wicked, wicked Bud Adams took the Houston Oilers franchise to Tennessee in 1996 after he was unable to extort a new stadium out of the Bayou City.

2. The Oilers became the Tennessee Titans.

3. A new franchise called the Houston Texans started up in 2002.

4. The Texans languished in sometime-mediocrity and sometime-not-so-bad until this season.

5. This year’s Texans were viewed with great anticipation by a number of the country’s sports pundits. The team, indeed, had its best season despite an unfortunate string of injuries that left the team as a synonym for a MASH unit. Probably the best receiver in the NFL, Texans’ Andre Johnson was plagued most the season with first, one Achilles heel problem and then another on the other leg. Starting quarterback Matt Schaub went out for the season with a broken foot in week 10. The next game saw backup Matt Leinart with his first start, which lasted all of the first half after which he went out for the year with a broken collarbone. Third-string rookie T.J. Yates then took over. Yates has looked impressive, but he suffered a separated shoulder in the last regular season game. More on that.

6. The Texans lost three straight games after winning the AFC South. The last loss was to the Titans, during which Yates went out with the shoulder problem. Fortunately, the injury was not to his throwing arm and Yates has reportedly “looked good” in practice. Still, one has to worry about some Bengals linebacker intentionally trying to turn the young Yates’ non-throwing shoulder into a piece of battered meat. Jake DelHomme, who was signed after the Houston quarterback battering began, started for the first time as the Texans’ fourth-string quarterback last Sunday. DelHomme is a Ragin’ Cajun who played for University of Louisiana-Lafayette and led the Carolina Panthers to a one-point Super Bowl loss in 2003. He steered the Texans, during the meaningless game with Tennessee, to a last-second comeback. However, the Texans lost when they failed to convert a two-point conversion.

Houston has, for several years, had the reputation of failing to seal the deal. That has been an occasional problem this year although they finished the regular season with a 10-6 record. Still, the Texans can often make one’s blood pressure travel in directions that it shouldn’t.

Andre Johnson should be back Saturday against Cincy as should Yates and Arian Foster, who is one of the NFL’s tip-top running backs with almost 1,225 rushing yards this year. “Depth” be thy name of Houston’s backfield, what with Foster, Derrick Ward and Ben Tate, the latter who was just shy of rushing 1,000 yards during the regular season. Other major offensive threats to the Bengals will include receivers Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter and Joel Dreessen not to mention the Pro-Bowl-snubbed Houston offensive line.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will, for the second week in a row, call defensive plays from a press box as he is still recovering from kidney and gall bladder surgery. News accounts say his dad, coaching legend Bum Phillips, told friends the defensive coordinator and former Dallas Cowboys head coach had a tumor “the size of a volleyball” removed from his kidney and gallbladder. Coach Gary Kubiak said the younger Phillips is doing well but would like a more comfortable chair in which to sit on Saturday. If anyone deserves a better chair, it’s Phillips. A lesser-experienced, more ego-involved coach might have felt deflated after being cast adrift by Somebody’s Team — Dallas. But Wade P. bounced right back in Houston and has put together one of the top three defenses in the NFL. While that defense may have faltered a slight bit in the past couple of weeks, they still are solid and have seen Bengals QB Andy Dalton and his offensive squad before.

There is really nothing in particular that points toward why the Texans should lose Saturday but the Bengals are a slight favorite. I think most are expecting another close game between Houston and Cincy. So I should join the crowd and likewise expect something like a 24-20 game in favor of the Bengals. But what the heck, if you can dream, why not dream.

I pick Houston in a 45-12 screen pass/ground attack fest. And if I’m wrong? I don’t really know anything about football anyway.