The Bengals enter Week 10 with an 8-0 record in large part because of the play of quarterback Andy Dalton.
Now in his fifth NFL season, Dalton is playing easily the best football of his career. Through eight games, Dalton is completing 67.4 percent of his passes for 2,226 yards, 18 touchdowns and just four interceptions with one fumble lost. He also has a total QBR of 77.6, the second best of any NFL quarterback to go with being ranked second in passer rating.
Dalton and the Bengals will host their second primetime game of the year (and second in two weeks) in Week 10 when the Texans come to Cincinnati for Monday Night Football. The Texans are a team that Cincinnati should still be chomping at the bit to face, considering a lot of the same guys that beat the Bengals three times from 2011-2013, including twice in the playoffs, will be on the field in this game.
The Bengals did get some revenge in their 22-13 win in Houston last season, but that was even a game during which Dalton struggled. In four career games (including the playoffs) vs the Texans, Dalton has completed just 81-of-135 passes (60-percent) for 806 yards with two touchdowns vs six turnovers (one fumble, five interceptions) while his offense averaged just 16.5 points per game. Even in last year's win, Dalton threw one touchdown vs one interception which ended up being a pick-six.
Marty Callinan of ESPN Stats & Information did a great piece on how Dalton has been debunking the Andy Dalton narrative this season, part of which involves Dalton's struggles against the Texans, which has been due in large part to Dalton forcing passes to wide receiver A.J. Green. All five of Dalton's interceptions vs the Texans were on passes intended for Green, who was targeted a combined 46 times in those four games, a ridiculous average of 11.5 targets per game.
Adding to his struggles were some flukish happenings and overall collapses by the Bengals as a whole that were not all the fault of Dalton. In fact, Dalton has never come close to having a full assortment of weapons when he's faced the Texans. He went against them twice as a rookie and had only a rookie receiver in Green to throw to as Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell did close to nothing. Then in 2012, Dalton had Green, a rookie Marvin Jones and Jermaine Gresham as his top targets.
Last year, it was Green, Mohamed Sanu and Gresham serving as Dalton's top targets. That's decent, but nothing compared to having a fourth-year Jones, Sanu, Tyler Eifert playing like the best tight end in football, and Green to boot. Even Giovani Bernard was just coming back from a hip injury that had cost him the previous three games the last time the Bengals faced the Texans and Jeremy Hill was just starting to take off.
Basically, Dalton has never played with anything close to a full deck of cards against the Texans, which has led to him being forced to feed the ball to Green and made it easier for Texans defenders to anticipate what was coming. That won't be the case this year with Sanu and Jones both playing solid while Green and Eifert are playing like two of the best players at their respective positions.
That's not even accounting for Bernard and Hill on the ground. It also helps that the Texans are without one of their best defenders in cornerback Kareem Jackson, who has already been ruled out for Monday's matchup as he deals with a high ankle sprain. Jackson played in all three of Houston's win over Dalton, but missed last year's game that resulted in a Cincinnati win.
Simply put, Dalton and the Bengals' past struggles against the Texans won't be a factor this time around as this is by far the best offense Cincinnati has played with against Houston.