Three of those previous losses came with Andy Dalton as Cincinnati's starting quarterback as he and the rest of the offense were overmatched by stronger Texans defenses. That changed last year as Dalton and the rest of his weapons were better and more capable of succeeding against a Houston defense led by All-Pro defensive lineman J.J. Watt.
Watt is typically the man who destroys opposing game plans by constantly pressuring quarterbacks, or getting one of his long arms up to swat away passes. He did so in the three wins over Dalton and limited the Bengals to just 13 points per game in those three wins over Cincinnati.
In the Wild Card playoff matchup in 2011, Watt sacked Dalton once and picked him off right before halftime, taking the ball the opposite way for six points in the Texans' 31-10 win. In the 2012 Wild Card rematch, Watt posted a sack, five stops and two pass deflections to help Houston escape with a 19-13 win. The Bengals finally solved the Watt riddle last year, limiting him to just one pass deflection and no sacks while winning 22-13 in Houston.
A big reason why the Bengals kept Watt at bay last year was a quick and efficient passing game that helped Dalton complete 68.6 percent of his passes after completing just 57 percent in the three previous games combined.
Texans head coach Bill O'Brien knows that's a big reason why his team lost last year.
"They have a really good quick game where they get the ball out quick to their quick receivers," O’Brien said via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Andy does a good job getting it out quick. Protection-wise they’ll use some seven-man protections and give some help to some guys. That’s what a lot of teams are doing against us. We have to learn how to combat that and do the best we can to try to limit that."
Getting the ball out quickly and making it harder for Watt to affect pass plays is probably why Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander admits he'll be using one-on-one blocking vs Watt and little double-teaming.
"We didn't put five guys on him. We put one guy on him. We played the way we play. We put one guy on him," Alexander said, via Bengals.com. "A couple plays we put two guys on him. But 95 percent of the game we put one guy on him. That's how we play."
O'Brien may have a trick up his sleeves in order to get Watt a more clear path to pressure, hit and even sack Dalton more this time around.
"You may see him on Monday night play linebacker," O’Brien said. "The guy can play anywhere. He can play tight end, he can play strong safety, he can play end, he can play nose, he can play the three-technique. When you have a guy intelligent enough and has the skill set to be able to do that, then you have to move him around and that’s what we’re doing."
Watt lining up and blitzing from the outside could be a huge problem for the Bengals since Watt he most of his damage on the inside when he's typically lined up against guards. That's how he picked up both of his sacks in Houston's most recent game, a 20-6 win over the Titans.
However, Watt also had several plays in which he lined up on the end of the line against the right tackle:
Though Watt didn't get the sack, he still managed to hit Zach Mettenberger on a quick-passing play that's similar to what the Bengals will use a lot of on Monday night. Here's another example of Watt lining up on the outside with a blitzing linebacker Jadeveon Clowney rushing inside vs the Falcons:
The Bengals would rather Watt spend more time blitzing at guards Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler, who form one of the NFL's better guard tandems. However, right tackle is a much bigger issue that Watt may be able to do more damage blitzing against.
Starting right tackle Andre Smith has a been a liability this year, and he may not even play Monday night as he deals with a concussion. Eric Winston filled in nicely for Smith, but asking him to hold up against Watt for an entire game is a far different question.
Another reason why lining up Watt more on the outside will be beneficial is potential matchups with running backs, like this sack Watt got vs the Jaguars last year against running back Toby Gerhart.
Running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard will be in for a tough day if they're put in a lot of one-on-one matchups with Watt, and that's something the Texans will probably try to force.
In the end, Watt is one man who the Bengals have the personnel to keep from destroying their game plan. Now it's just a matter of executing that game plan and beating the Texans to remain undefeated in 2015.