For the second consecutive year, the Texans will host the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round of the playoffs at Reliant Stadium. The game will kick off on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CT.
The Texans (12-4) fell from the first to third seed in the AFC on Sunday with a loss at Indianapolis and victories by the Denver Broncos (13-3) and New England Patriots (12-4). Instead of clinching a first-round bye and home-field advantage, they set themselves up for a game in six days against the Bengals (10-6), who they beat 31-10 on Wild Card weekend last season.
"We had a great opportunity the last two weeks, (but) we won't feel sorry for ourselves," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We're excited about the playoffs. We have to turn around real quick and get ready to go. We'll get our chin up and go to work."
After an 11-1 start, the Texans enter the playoffs with losses in two consecutive games and three of their last four. They could have clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC with victories in either of their last two games but instead suffered double-digit losses at home to the Minnesota Vikings (23-6) and on the road at the Colts (28-16).
"You can't dwell on that," Texans running back Arian Foster said. "This is a new season now. It's the playoffs. Everybody's 0-0, so you have to have a short-term memory in this league. It's more important now than ever."
The AFC West champion Broncos earned the top seed in the AFC, followed by the AFC East champion Patriots. The Baltimore Ravens (10-6), who won the AFC North, will host the Colts in the other Wild Card game next weekend.
If the Texans beat the Bengals on Saturday, they will play at New England, where they lost 42-14 in Week 14, in the Divisional Round. They would then either travel to Denver for the AFC Championship Game or host the Ravens or Colts at Reliant Stadium if either team beats Denver in the Divisional Round.
"We made our road a little bit tougher, that's all," Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. "Doesn't mean it's impossible, but we made it a little tougher, and so we're just gonna have to dig a little deeper. We're gonna go back, look at the film, get it all corrected and move into the playoffs.
"This month decides everything. We still have everything is in front of us."
The Bengals are on a three-game winning streak and have won seven of their last eight games. Their only loss in the second half of the season was a 20-19 defeat against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 9.
Second-year Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, a native of Katy, Texas, threw for 3,669 yards this season with 27 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and an 87.4 passer rating. Second-year wide receiver A.J. Green had 97 catches for 1,350 yards and 11 touchdowns. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 1,094 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
The Bengals are led on defense by Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins, who had 12.5 sacks this season, and defensive end Michael Johnson, who had 11.5 sacks. Linebackers Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict both had more than 100 tackles.
"We're in the same exact spot we were last year, playing at home against Cincinnati," Texans center Chris Myers said. "That's one thing that we have on our side is that we're playing in our home stadium, and we've got to use that to our advantage… We've just got to be able to flip the page and go into the play offs with a fresh start."