PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04: Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals warms up prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 4, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Even though many believe that the Bengals are in the position they're in (in the hunt for a wildcard spot) because they have an easy schedule, the Bengals do play some of the best defensive teams in the league. Of course everybody knows about the Ravens and Steelers, but this season the Browns defense, led mostly by their ability to stop teams from passing on them, really stepped up. The Bengals also played the Jaguars, who have of the best defenses in the league. Cincinnati also hosted the 49ers, who have ridden their top-five defense all the way to an NFC West championship.
The Bengals have a 3-4 record against teams with top-ranked defenses this season. They beat the Browns twice and the Jaguars and they lost to the Ravens, the 49ers and the Steelers twice.
The Texans come to Cincinnati with the second-best defense in the league (right behind the Steelers) and if the Bengals can win on Sunday, they'll be able to say that they have gone .500 against teams with the best defenses in the NFL.
Andy Dalton, the Bengals' rookie quarterback, has been good this season and that's likely an understatement. In five games he's played against mediocre defenses, according to Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson, he has had an average rating of 91.5 by throwing nine touchdowns to five interceptions. However, when he has played against the top defenses he has 73.2 passer rating with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, also in his first year, says the Bengals offense has to do a better job getting bigger chunks of yards on plays against top defensive teams, like the Texans.
"There’s a reason they’re top five. Those are damn good defenses but we have to do a better job of getting them in better positions. We have to do a better job of getting big chunks of yards," Gruden said. "That was our main focus against Pittsburgh, to utilize some play-action and get some big chunks. We got one on the second play of the game but never really got (another) opportunity. We had a chance on the second drive of the game but didn’t hit it. We have to get some bigger chunks is what I’m saying. For us to drive the ball down 12 plays a drive is tough against those teams."
The Texans have not beaten a team this season that has scored more than 14 points against them. If they can figure out how to move the ball against top defenses, a win in Week 14 is not out of reach. If the Bengals are unable to move the ball against the Texans on Sunday, like they couldn't in Pittsburgh last Sunday, they, and their playoff hopes, are in trouble.