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Week 10 Bengals vs Texans: 5 Bengals to watch for

Week 10 brings the Houston Texans to Cincinnati. These players will be key to keeping the Bengals on track.

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The Bengals are coming off of a mini-bye after dispatching the Browns last Thursday. While some may look at this game as somewhat of a tuneup before the Bengals jump into the toughest part of their schedule, this is the NFL. Every team has the ability to beat every team on any given day. The Texans may only be 3-5, but they are fortunate to be in the AFC South, where 3-5 puts you in second place behind a Colts team who will be without Andrew Luck for multiple weeks. Make no mistake, the Texans have a lot to play for. There is a chance they could have a home playoff game if things go right for them. A win against Cincinnati would go a long way toward securing that.

We all know about J.J. Watt. I don't have to expand on that. However, the rest of their defensive front also features several talented players including Vince Wilfork and Whitney Mercilus. The offense is significantly less talented, but it does feature two talented receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Cecil Shorts. With the Texans' talent being focused in these two areas, it will be important for the Bengals' offensive line and secondary to have solid showings.

1.) Russell Bodine

If the old saying "you're only as strong as your weakest link" held true, somehow Bodine is strong enough to be a player on an 8-0 team. Bodine's performance will be of the utmost importance if the Bengals want to have any semblance of an inside running game on Monday. Vince Wilfork may have been around awhile and although he has never offered much as a pass rusher, he does exactly what you want a 3-4 nose tackle to do. He eats space, blocks, and any food you put in front of him. He is still a very talented run stopper, and that talent could derail Cincinnati's run game immediately. If Bodine cannot handle Wilfork, look for tosses, stretch runs, and quick screens to replace interior rushing. The problem with that is the Texans have many athletic defenders who can tackle sideline-to-sideline.

2.) Giovani Bernard

Unfortunately, I expect Bodine to lose his battle against Wilfork, making those stretch and toss plays more prevalent. If those are what the Bengals offense has to resort to, Gio will be the man to make them effective. He will have to find creases in the athletic Texans front seven to exploit. This is no easy task with the aforementioned playmakers on that side of the ball for Houston. If Bodine cannot win his battle, and Bernard is ineffective, the Bengals' offense will become one-dimensional very quickly, allowing Houston's pass rushers to do what they do best.

3.) Adam Jones

Jones will draw the task of covering Hopkins frequently, and it is a tall task considering Hopkins is third in the NFL in yards and fourth in receptions. This is even more impressive when you remember that he has been catching passes from Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer. Hopkins is more of a technician this year and not so much a big play threat, as evidenced by his 34 yard long this year. That is likely the result of the quarterback play in Houston, as Cecil Shorts only has a long of 42 this year. Keeping Hopkins and Hoyer from establishing a rhythm early on will go a long way towards ensuring success. When not lined up against Hopkins, Shorts has plenty of ability to make the defense pay. With a better quarterback, this would be one of the better wide receiver duos in the NFL.

On top of his performance as a cornerback, a big return or two would provide a big advantage for the Bengals.

4.) Eric Winston

Watt has rushed primarily from the left defensive end spot this year, which will put him over Winston at right tackle. We all know the havoc Watt can create, and Andy Dalton knows all about it as well. While some people may be worried about a huge drop in performance from Andre Smith to Winston, Smith hasn't been very good this year. While John Clayton clearly hasn't watched a single Bengals game this year, Winston won't necessarily an automatic minus, especially in pass protection in comparison to Smith. With all of that said... he is severely overmatched. Watt is going to likely put up some stats. If he doesn't produce a game-changing play, we'll consider that a win for Winston. That goal should be attainable for the veteran.

5.) George Iloka

Iloka could have a significant impact against both the pass and run on Monday. While the Texans running game isn't especially scary sans Arian Foster, they will surely look to establish the run. Iloka's presence against the run is appreciable, and he has the ability to keep 6-8 yard runs from turning into 10+ yard runs. That same train of thought can be applied to the pass game, where his presence can stop routine completions from turning into big gainers. If the Bengals can keep the Texans from making big plays, they should have a successful day on defense as Houston has not demonstrated the ability to consistently move the ball up and down the field.