Cincinnati's schedule is undergoing an unusual stretch.
Following the Bengals' 34-21 win over the Buffalo Bills, the Bengals recuperated during a Week 7 bye. They traveled to Pittsburgh for the usual Sunday afternoon contest in Week 8, beating the Steelers 16-10 and then immediately turned their week over into a Week 9 meeting against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. When the Bengals play their next game on Monday Night Football against Houston, they'll have not played a Sunday afternoon game for two weeks and won't play another Sunday afternoon game until Nov. 29 (they play on Sunday Night Football next week against the Cardinals).
It's a strange stretch.
Regardless, the Bengals shift focus toward Houston this week, a team coming off their own bye week after winning two of their last three games (wins against the Jaguars and Titans sandwiching their loss to Miami). Despite being 3-5 this season, Houston has an offense ranked ninth and the league's 14th-ranked defense which allows a league-low 27 percent on third down conversions.
Yet, Cincinnati will be a major test for Houston.
"They're 8-0 for a reason," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said via ESPN on Monday. "One of the reasons why is their front is a very strong front, [Carlos] Dunlap, [Michael] Johnson, Geno Atkins, one of the best 3-techniques in the league, so it's a big challenge. Linebackers are athletic, tough, their top four corners are all first-round draft picks, talented guys, got a lot of respect for this defense and our guys are obviously going to have to be up to that challenge. That's a heck of an opponent on the other side."
Writes ESPN reporter Tania Ganguli:
So when a reporter rattled off a list of Bengals playmakers -- receivers A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, tight end Tyler Eifert, their running backs -- O'Brien made an addition.
"You didn't even mention Andy Dalton," O'Brien said. "He's playing as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. They're very good. I think the one thing they do a great job of, and I have a lot of respect for their staff, Marvin [Lewis] and his staff ... Hue Jackson and Paul Guenther, on offense they're running the ball, and they run the ball downhill. Their offensive line is big, strong, played together for a long time. That's the key right now for them. They're able to run the football and they're in manageable down and distances, and that's going to be a big challenge for us on Monday night."
Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer, undefeated against the Bengals during two starts with the Browns, similarly praised Cincinnati this week.
"They're a tough team, and they're winning big games and close games," Hoyer said via the Houston Chronicle. "I'm familiar with their personnel and their scheme. I didn't have to look at the scouting report because I know them by name and number. They don't change much. They do a good job of keeping their players."
Cincinnati defeated Houston last season, bolting out of the starting block with a 16-3 third quarter lead before Houston responded with 10 unanswered points. Mike Nugent converted a pair of four quarter field goals to secure Cincinnati's 22-13 win. Houston has lost five games this season; three (Chiefs, Panthers, Colts) were decided by a single possession -- two (Miami, Atlanta) were blowouts.