The past few times the Bengals and Texans matched up for a big primetime game (2011 and 2012 playoffs), things did not turn out well for the Bengals. Brett Kollman of Battle Red Blog joins us this week to tell us if things might turn out better for the Bengals this Monday night. Check out our answers to Brett's questions on BRB.
Q: Coming into the season, I thought the Texans had a top 10, maybe even a top five defense. The Texans have a ton of big names on defense (J.J. Watt, Vince Wilfork, Brian Cushing, Jadeveon Clowney, Jonathan Joseph), but looking at the stats, it appears the defense has not played particularly well in 2015. Is that accurate? And if so, why has the defense not lived up to their lofty expectations?
A: That is entirely accurate. As for why the defense has failed, I think it is a combination of coaching and once great players succumbing to their own bodies. Johnathan Joseph and Vince Wilfork are nowhere near what they used to be (at least physically), and Brian Cushing's knee injuries have clearly taken a toll on his mobility. All three of them are still smart, fundamentally sound players that can still make a play or two, but I'm afraid that all of their Pro Bowl days are over at this point.
As for the other big issues, there has been a crippling anti-tackling disease that seems to have infected the entire team this season, and usually the root cause of that kind of problem is coaching. Houston finally righted the ship defensively a couple of weeks ago with seven sacks against the Titans, but I do not really consider that club a true barometer for success. We won't know if this unit really is suddenly playing up to their potential until they put on that kind of performance against an elite offense, which the Bengals just so happen to be. If I were a betting man, however, I wouldn't count on Cincinnati suddenly falling apart against this team...not with Bizarro-Dalton playing like he is at least.
Q: Brian Hoyer is 30-years-old and statistically, is having a pretty solid season (13 touchdowns, 3 interceptions) - especially given the fact that he only has four starts. I know Hoyer probably doesn't generate a lot of excitement, but with Ryan Mallett no longer in the picture, what is Hoyer's future with the Texans?
A: Even if Hoyer continues to play surprisingly decent, he still is not the long-term answer for this team. At best he is yet another bridge quarterback that can get us by until Bill O'Brien drafts his true protégé (cough cough Christian Hackenberg cough cough). With how awful the AFC South is this season, though, he might even have a shot to reach the playoffs this year. Wouldn't another Bengals-Texans playoff game be just lovely? Wouldn't it? WOULDN'T IT?!?!?!?!
Q: How is the Texans' offense different with Arian Foster out for the season and Alfred Blue filling in?
A: Have you ever seen a running game so hopelessly anemic that you feel compelled to apologize to the opposing fans for what they have to witness? It's worse than that.
Q: DeAndre Hopkins is having a phenomenal season and has established himself as one of the top wide receivers in the NFL. This season, Hopkins has had eight or more receptions and 90+ yards in six of the Texans eight games and has gone over 100 yards in four of the eight games. In fact, only the Panthers and the Dolphins have kept him in check. What did those teams do that the others could not?
A: Well, Miami's secret weapon was scoring over 40 points in the first half and zeroing in against the Texans pass game for the rest of the afternoon. I suppose you could try that and see how it works. As for Carolina, Hopkins got followed around all game by Josh Norman, who conceded only 32 yards combined throughout the entire month of October. That was a rough day, obviously.
Q: If you were the Bengals coordinators, how would you attack this Texans team on offense and defense?
A: Find the Texans safeties, put Tyler Eifert in their general area, and just chuck it. Once that works, throw it again, and then again, and then say "screw it" and throw it one more time for good measure. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do not stop throwing it to Tyler Eifert when Eddie Pleasant or Rahim Moore is covering him.
On offense, interior pressure is not Brian Hoyer's friend. Double DeAndre Hopkins on every snap (not that it works all that well, but you can still at least try), and let Geno Atkins do the rest. Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts will get their catches as well, but by the end of the game it probably won't matter much if the Bengals offense performs as expected. Their ability to put points on the board supersedes almost every other team in the league right now, and that includes the Texans.
Q: On paper, many Bengals fans are going to chalk this game up as a win. However, with a big game the following week in Arizona, I believe this could be the proverbial "Trap Game." How do the Texans go about beating the Bengals?
A: Pray for Primetime Dalton to return in spectacular fashion, I suppose. I personally don't think that will happen, but it is basically Houston's only shot at this point. The Bengals are 8-0 for a reason, and it's because they have an MVP candidate under center that has a ridiculous arsenal of weapons to work with at every position group. Unless Dalton magically implodes out of nowhere (which is possible, though pretty unlikely), I fully expect Cincy to be 9-0 come Tuesday morning.
Q: What is your prediction for Monday?
A: Bengals 27, Texans 20. The score may be one possession, but I don't think it will be that close. I predict Cincinnati to jump out to an early lead and put on cruise control as Houston puts on another second half points bonanza that ultimately amounts to nothing. I have seen that exact script way too many times this season to believe any differently.