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Houston beats Bengals 19-13 in wild-card playoff

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Houston beats Bengals 19-13 in wild-card playoff

HOUSTON (AP) -- J.J. Watt swatted away passes, Arian Foster ran away from tacklers and the Houston Texans did just enough to knock Cincinnati out of the playoffs for the second straight year.

Matt Schaub made his first postseason start a successful one when Foster's 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter helped the Texans to a 19-13 AFC wild-card win over the Bengals on Saturday.

"The whole stadium knew we had to line up and run the ball and boy, he was at his best there at the end," coach Gary Kubiak said. "He's become a fine, fine player, and it just seems like the bigger it gets, the better Arian gets."

Now comes the big test. The Texans (13-4) move on to the second round on Jan. 13, when they visit the New England Patriots, who beat them 42-14 in Week 14. This time they're 9 -point underdogs.

"It's one step," Watt said of the win. "We know what it means, and we have bigger goals than that."

He's glad the team got back on track this week, but knows Houston will have to play better to beat the Patriots.

"They know what they're doing in the playoffs," Watt said. "They've been here many times before. They know what it takes, so it's going to take everything we have and we're really excited about the challenge."

Foster said he isn't planning to watch too much film of Houston's loss to the Patriots.

"They're a new team, we're a new team," Foster said. "Anytime you play a team twice in a season ... you have to attack it differently. It's a different mentality. Different things are at stake."

Shayne Graham kicked four field goals for the Texans, while Foster finished with 140 yards and became the first NFL player to have 100-yard games in each of his first three playoff games.

Watt finished with a sack and swatted away two of Andy Dalton's pass attempts, once wagging his finger at the Bengals quarterback after the play.

"I think it was a full defensive effort, everybody was flying around and we were getting off the field on third downs," Watt said.

The Texans defense smothered Dalton and the Bengals early. Their second drive ended when Connor Barwin tackled BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a 6-yard loss and Watt followed with a sack of Dalton.

Houston's offense had the ball for almost 39 minutes as it ate up the clock with a season-high 32 carries from Foster.

"We controlled the line of scrimmage, and any time we do that it's going to be hard to beat us," Foster said.

The Texans had trouble finishing drives and managed three field goals in the first half against the Bengals (10-7). Houston struck first after the break, with Foster scoring the game's only offensive touchdown to make it 16-7.

Schaub, who missed last year's playoffs with a foot injury, had an interception returned for a touchdown by Leon Hall before halftime.

"It was never easy," Schaub said. "Cincinnati is a great team. I made a turnover and gave them points. We just had to rally around each other and we did that."

Johnathan Joseph, a former Bengal, came up with an interception for the Texans, who kept Cincinnati without a playoff win since the 1990 season, the league's longest current streak.

Houston had struggled on third downs lately. This time, the Texans didn't let the Bengals convert a third down on nine tries.

The Texans rebounded from a terrible month where they lost three of four games and the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. The win came in front of a record crowd of 71,738, including former Oilers great Earl Campbell.

The Bengals couldn't do anything offensively before the break, and were outgained 250-53 in the first half. Dalton was 4 of 10 for 3 yards in the first half.

Schaub shook off his first-half miscue to finish 29 of 38 for 262 yards, and Dalton finished 14 of 30 for 127 yards.

The Bengals had a chance for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but Dalton's pass sailed just out of reach of a diving A.J. Green in the end zone.

"The offense didn't play as well as it could have," Dalton said. "You can always look back and say, `What if?'"

Dalton's 45-yard pass to Green got Cincinnati moving in the third quarter and set up Josh Brown's 34-yard field goal. When Dalton tried to go to Green again, Joseph intercepted and got the Texans in scoring range again as the quarter ended.

In last year's playoffs, the Texans routed the Bengals 31-10, with Dalton throwing three interceptions.

The main difference in this one: Schaub was back in charge for Houston. Rookie T.J. Yates filled in for Schaub, got the Texans a win in their first playoff game, but couldn't take them any further.

On their second possession, Schaub completed an 18-yard pass, Foster had a 17-yard run and Keshawn Martin went 16 yards on a reverse, setting up Graham's field goal.

It became a pattern -- move the ball down the field, settle for three points. The fans started booing.

And then Schaub did the one thing he wanted to avoid -- he let Cincinnati's defense get its hands on the ball. Hall anticipated Schaub's throw, stepped in front and returned it untouched, high-stepping the last few yards, for the defense's fourth touchdown in the last four games.

Hall also ran back an interception 17 yards for the only Bengals touchdown in a 13-10 win over Pittsburgh that clinched a playoff spot. It was the first interception return for a touchdown against the Texans this season.

Like the Texans, the Bengals ended the season by hitting a wall on offense -- one touchdown in the last two games. The offensive woes continued on Saturday when the Bengals failed to score a touchdown on offense again.

NOTES: Houston's 420 yards were the most given up by the Bengals in their last 10 games. ... Houston receiver Andre Johnson had four receptions for 62 yards to extend his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 99. ... Texans' LB Cameron Collins made his NFL debut on Saturday after being signed from the practice squad a day earlier. ... R&B star Brian McKnight sang the national anthem.  

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Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp

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USA TODAY Sports

Lamar Jackson, Ravens rookies report to training camp

Football is back in session for the Ravens.

Their rookies are set to report to the Ravens' training facility in Owings Mills, Md Wednesday. Veterans report next Wednesday, the 18th.

The team is reporting to training camp a bit earlier than most NFL teams. Due to Ray Lewis being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Aug. 4 in Canton, Oh, the Ravens will face the Chicago Bears in the annual Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 2. Teams participating are eligible to begin training camp earlier.

This rookie class is already generating national attention. While the Ravens stand by Joe Flacco as their QB1, first-round pick Lamar Jackson could cause a shakeup at some point during the season. And when it comes to much-needed offensive help, tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews could begin to provide relief. 

Third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. begins his journey with the Ravens in a more sentimental fashion. His father, Orlando "Zeus" Brown, also played tackle for the Ravens from 1996-98 and then again from 2003-05. Brown passed away in 2011. 

Stay with NBC Sports Washington throughout the next several weeks as we keep a close eye on the Ravens' preseason. 

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Early 2018 NFL playoff odds have Ravens in similar situation

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Early 2018 NFL playoff odds have Ravens in similar situation

There's only six months until the NFL playoffs and we've got no time to waste.

OK, maybe we're getting a little ahead of ourselves but online betting site, Oddshark, released their early 2018 NFL playoff odds and the Ravens are in a similar situation as previous years.

The Ravens are sitting at +135 — tied for 13th with the San Francisco 49ers — for the best odds to play January football. This would place them in the seventh seed among AFC teams and just outside contention.

The Patriots (-1500), Steelers (-550), Chargers (-145), Jaguars (-140), Texans (-135), and Chiefs (+120) are seeded above them respectively. 

During the 2017 season, the Ravens were constantly in the hunt for the fifth or sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture. Several weeks ahead of training camp, Vegas is predicting that to be the case in 2018.

Playoff odds in July mean nothing, but considering their offseason changes, the Ravens' 2018 season should bring positive change.

They added weapons for Joe Flacco in free agents Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead and John Brown, and drafted tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews.

Then there was the late first-round draft pick of QB Lamar Jackson. Flacco remains the starter for now, but it will be interesting to see if that changes midway through the season or if they get them both on the field at the same time.

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