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Bengals face familiar hurdle vs Texans in Week 16

The Bengals have struggled against the Houston Texans for years, even when facing backup quarterbacks. That will be the case again on Saturday.

Houston Texans v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Most Bengals fans only think about one thing when the Houston Texans are brought up: the playoffs. The first two seasons of the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green era, 2011 and 2012, saw the Bengals make it to the playoffs in back to back years for the first time since the 1981 and 1982 seasons. But, they had to go to Houston to play the Texans both times and both times they lost. 2016 will be the first year the Bengals have missed the playoffs since Dalton and Green entered the league, but the team has still yet to win a playoff game, so those Wild Card losses the Texans sting, even years later.

That said, it hasn’t just been the playoffs when the Bengals struggle against the Texans. Throughout the Texans’ 14 year existence, the Bengals have only beaten them four times. Three of those wins came in the first three meetings between the teams, including one in 2002, which was both the Bengals’ worst season (2-14) and the Texans’ inaugural season.

For such a great start, the Bengals didn’t keep the dominance up. The teams didn’t see each other at all between 2005 and 2008, but they did finally meet again in October of 2008. The Texans announced their presence with a dominating 35-6 blowout over the lowly Bengals, who were admittedly having a bad season anyway. But, they weren’t having a bad season the following year when the Bengals once again lost to the Texans by a convincing score (28-17).

That pair of bad games from the Bengals sullied their overall record against the Texans, but Cincinnati was still ahead in the all time matchup (3-2) before the new era in Cincinnati began. Before that infamous 19-13 loss in the 2011 Wild Card round of the playoffs, the Bengals actually played the Texans four weeks earlier. They lost, but only by one point. At the time, the loss didn’t seem like a big a deal, but unfortunately it may have also given the Texans the blueprint they needed to beat the Bengals in the first round of the playoffs.

The Bengals finally recorded their first win over the Texans since 2005 in 2014. Interestingly, the final score (22-13) didn’t do enough justice to how well the Bengals absolutely dominated the Texans’ offense. The Bengals’ offense went through a few peaks and valleys throughout the game, but ultimately they did more than enough to win with how well the defense played.

Most recently, the Bengals and Texans met last year in Week 10 on Monday Night Football. If you don’t remember the outcome of that game, you can probably guess (based on the Bengals’ poor primetime history), that they didn’t win. For as fantastic as the Bengals’ offense looked at times in 2015, they didn’t look like that at all against the Texans.

That game was by far Dalton’s worst game of the 2015 season, and he recorded only his second quarterback rating below 90 in a full game that year (61.0). Even factoring in his five passes for 59 yards and an interception against the Steelers before he hurt his thumb, his quarterback rating against the Texans was his lowest of the season.

He only threw one interception against the Texans, but he didn’t find the endzone at all and only recorded 197 yards despite attempting 38 passes. Dalton only attempted more passes in a game once last year, but he recorded less passing yards than any other full game. Overall, it was an awful game for Dalton, and the rest of the offense reflected that with six points, matched up against the Texans’ 10.

That game was also the Bengals’ first loss of the 2015 season after starting the year 8-0. The Bengals would go on to finish the season 12-4, tying the franchise’s best all-time record.

This week, it’s hard to imagine the game playing out much differently. Both the Bengals’ and Texans’ offenses have struggled this year, so this game will probably come down to which defense can play better. The Bengals’ defense hasn’t been particularly great this year, but the Texans will be playing without J.J. Watt this time around. That’s the first time he has missed a game against the Bengals in his career, and the Texans are sure to miss his contributions (16 tackles, three sacks, and a pick six in six games against the Bengals).

The Texans will also be playing a backup quarterback turned starter in Tom Savage and this rivalry certainly isn’t new to the Texans trotting out backups against the Bengals either.

The game this week means much more for the Texans than it does the Bengals. Houston is in first place in the AFC South but both the Colts and Titans are knocking on their door with two weeks remaining in the NFL season.

Can the Bengals get their second win over the Texans in the Dalton-Green era on Christmas Eve? We’ll find out on Saturday night.