Don't worry: Adding Jerome Simpson during our weekly fantasy sleeper feature is like acknowledging that he actually exists and by doing so, he'll have one of his classic "not show up" moments -- like the five games this year he's posted two receptions or less, all for less than 16 yards receiving. We’d like to, especially if former Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph is primarily covering A.J. Green like we suspect. Kareem Jackson, Houston’s other starting cornerback this weekend, has allowed a 58.1% conversion on passes targeting receivers he’s covering this season, averaging 15.5 yards/reception and three touchdowns for an opposing quarterback rating of 101.7.
That being said this game will be won in the trenches. Can Cincinnati’s rushing offense respond to Houston’s and can the Bengals defense slow Houston’s third-ranked rushing offense? Cincinnati hasn’t limited an opposing rushing offense to less than 100 yards rushing since week nine against the Tennessee Titans and against the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati’s most recent games, the Bengals are allowing an average 135 yards rushing between them.
The idolizing focus this weekend by the Cincinnati Bengals will need to focus on Houston’s running game, using speed and power to counter the Texans zone blocking schemes. Domata Peko standing like a massive boulder enabling linebacker Rey Maualuga to aggressively attack the A-gap. Geno Atkins penetrating the offensive line, forcing Arian Foster and Ben Tate to make their first cut in the backfield while Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard harass the edges. Chris Crocker or Taylor Mays, who is steadily seeing increasing playing time on defense, becomes the eighth man on defense.
Cincinnati’s performance will show an urgency to win on Sunday -- a must-win to maintain their playoff destiny without the need to depend on others. If anything dictates that it’s Marvin Lewis calling Sunday the biggest game of his career and it’s Mike Zimmer threatening to sit players if the defense can’t force turnovers.
Despite the injuries they’ve seen in recent weeks, it’s the defense’s turn to return at the head of the table this weekend.