DJ: Third-and-long, the long and short for Bengals

HOUSTON - Bengals quarterback coach Ken Zampese was visibly enthused Friday night during a brief visit in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel here in Houston.

"Why not?" he offered. "We're right where we want to be. I like our situation. And considering where we were at 3-5, we're playing with house money right now."

And that money goes back on the line Saturday afternoon at Reliant Stadium in Houston when the Bengals, for the second year in a row, meet the Texans in an AFC wild-card round game.

While Houston has lost three of its last four games, Cincinnati has gone 7-1 over its last eight. While not the offensive juggernaut it was early on in the season, the Bengals are heading into Saturday afternoon's game with definite momentum. That momentum is largely a byproduct of the efforts of Cincinnati's defense.

Defense is what many feel will be the difference in keeping the din at Reliant Stadium to a minimum, so Cincinnati can function with a modicum of efficiency.

The Bengals' linebackers coach, Paul Guenther, sees a simple formula for keeping the Texans' offense and by extension the legendarily loud crowds at Reliant Stadium under control: control first and second downs.

"If we get them into third and long, we'll feast. Our pass rush is second to none and Matt Schaub doesn't handle pressure well. Winning on first and second, setting up an obvious passing situation on third down will be huge for us."

I look for Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson to play a big role Saturday. He was spending time with his mom and sad Friday night when I felt compelled to intrude briefly. I know how it made my mother feel on the occasion when someone would pay me a compliment. I simply wanted her and her husband to know how many of us in the media feel about the Johnsons' son. He has been a credit to his family, his team and his city.  And knowing that his parents traveled from Selma, Ala. to see him play Saturday, I suspect will be a source of inspiration to him.

The same goes for Andy Dalton whose family has only had to negotiate a 30-mile transit from Katy, Texas to Houston. And suffice to say, he is very, very eager to show that he is far better than his showing last January in a nearly identical scenario. Andy was intercepted three times in the course of Cincinnati's 31-10 loss here in Houston during last year's wild-card round game. Redemption is at hand and I fully expect him to claim it.

Cincinnati, though, will have to score what Dave Lapham calls an "unconventional' touchdown," via defensive or special teams touchdown to claim a seven-point win.

That is only my opinion though.

You can offer your opinion at or as I tweet over the course of the game.

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