HOUSTON - DECEMBER 04: DeMeco Ryans #59 of the Houston Texans celebrates after the Houston Texans defeated the Atlanta Falcons at Reliant Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
One of the Texans' biggest strengths this season has been their defense. They have the league's second-ranked defense right behind the Pittsburgh Steelers as the league enters its 14th week. They have the fourth best defense against the run, allowing only an average of 90.7 rushing yards per game, and the league's third best pass defense, allowing only an average of 183.4 passing yards per game.
They have also allowed the second least amount of points per game so far this season. Opposing offenses have only been able to score an average of 15.8 points per game against the Texans defense. They have won a franchise high nine games at this point of the season but their three losses came to the three teams that were able to score more than 14 points against them. That's what the Bengals will need to do on Sunday.
The Texans have only allowed an opposing team to score more than 14 points three times this season. In Week 3 they gave up 40 points to the Saints, in Week 5 they gave up 25 points to the Raiders and in Week 6 they gave up 29 points to the Ravens. The Texans lost all three of those games. The most they've given up other than those three games was in Week 8 when they gave up 14 to the Jaguars.
The Bengals have the 19th-ranked scoring offense, averaging 22.2 points per game. If they are able to put up more than 21 against the Texans, their chances of winning should go up by a lot. To do that, the offensive line will have to protect Andy Dalton better than they were able to in the last four games, in which they have given up seven sacks.
Cedric Benson will also need to have a good game. The Bengals are 3-0 this season when he has rushed for over 100 yards. If the offensive line can open up holes for Benson and he can get through to the second level, the Bengals offense should be able to move the ball effectively. Of course this is much easier said than done against the second-best defense in the NFL but their backs are against the wall now and the Bengals are in do-or-die mode.
If they want to play in the post season, this is a must-win game and in order for the Bengals to win, they're going to have to put up a decent amount of points on Sunday.