If the Steelers are the Bengals’ kryptonite, then the Texans have been their Achilles’ heel since Andy Dalton entered the NFL in 2011. Cincinnati has only managed one win against Houston in the last five outings, with the lone victory coming against Ryan Mallett. Heck, former Houston quarterback T.J. Yates (also known as “Yates of Hell”) is undefeated when facing the Bengals.
With a quarterback change and potential injury to the Texans’ starting running back, Saturday’s Christmas Eve matchup should have some juice. We spoke with Brett Kollmann of Battle Red Blog to learn some more about this year’s Texans squad.
Connor Howe: Tom Savage is replacing Brock Osweiler as the Texans' quarterback this week. Is that good news or bad news for the Bengals?
Brett Kollmann: If last week's tiny sample size is any indication, this is horrible news for the Bengals. Savage ran the offense better in just two quarters of play than Osweiler has all season long (I wish I was joking), and there was an immediate and gigantic difference in production across the board as soon as he came into the game. I have no idea if he can keep that success going against the Bengals this week, but at least Savage remembered that DeAndre Hopkins existed and should get the ball every once in a while...so that was nice. I'm sure some fantasy owners out there love him if only for that one reason.
CH: At first glance, it seems as though the Texans have one of the NFL's best rushing attacks. How has Lamar Miller been in his first year in Houston?
BK: Miller basically WAS this offense until Tom Savage lifted up the passing game last week. If he had success, this team had success - period. Whether as a runner or receiver, Miller has really done his part to keep this team together each and every week. He does not get the accolades that a lot of other running backs around the league seem to collect (hi there, Ezekiel Elliott), but his toughness and drive have unquestionably been the heart of the offense this season.
CH: I'm sure you get this every week, but what's the deal with DeAndre Hopkins? His drop-off in production this year was quite surprising.
BK: Osweiler. That's about it, really. They could never get on the same page with one another, and even when they were on the same page Osweiler was so inaccurate that he could not reliably get him the ball anyway. It was just a complete mess, through and through.
CH: What has gone so well for this Texans defense? You'd think losing J.J. Watt would be a big deal, but apparently it wasn't.
BK: Jadeveon Clowney is the Football Gods' gift to Houston. Watt would still unquestionably be the best defensive player on the team if he were healthy, but Clowney is getting closer and closer to reaching Watt's level every single week. He is unstoppable against the run - arguably even more than Watt, to be honest - and as a pass rusher he has been rapidly improving his consistency throughout the season. Not only that, but Clowney's immense strength for his frame have allowed him to play everything from outside linebacker to defensive tackle at just 265 pounds with virtually no drop in production. The dude is an absolute freak.
Beyond Clowney, A.J. Bouye and Benardrick McKinney have both had breakout seasons this year and anchored the back seven through multiple injuries to other starters. McKinney in particular is an absolute wrecking ball in the middle of the field, while Bouye will likely get one of the bigger cornerback contracts in free agency next March. Hell, statistically speaking, Bouye has been arguably the number one off-cover corner in the entire league despite being listed fourth on the depth chart at the beginning of the year. He will have earned every single dime he gets in the spring.
CH: Give us two guys — one on offense, one on defense — who most fans don't know but should start getting familiar with.
BK: I'll stick with Bouye on defense. A.J. Green worked him over pretty good a couple years ago when these teams met, but he is a completely different player now than he was back then. I look forward to seeing those two go toe to toe once again this Saturday
On offense, Akeem Hunt seems primed to make something awesome happen every time he touches the ball. He is a great complement to Miller as a scat back, and I wouldn't be surprised to see both of them get a ton of snaps while Savage sits back and lets the ground game do all of the heavy lifting.