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Analyzing Cincinnati Bengals’ 5 toughest opponents in 2017: #4, Houston Texans

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We take a look at the Houston Texans and identify some of their strengths and weaknesses heading into the 2017 NFL season.

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The Cincinnati Bengals will once again face the Houston Texans in 2017, as they so often do.

As per usual, the Texans’ quarterback situation is in flux. However, no matter who the quarterback is, the Texans always seem to give the Bengals a hard time so the team will have to gameplan well and come up with a good plan to win this Week 2 Thursday Night Football game. This will also be a true test for the Bengals’ offensive line with the talent the Texans have along their defensive front and the Bengals will have to come up with an offensive scheme built around getting the ball out of Andy Dalton’s hand fast and frustrating the opposing pass rush.

Now let’s take a look at some of the Texans’ strengths and weaknesses and why this is our #4 ranked hardest game on the Bengals’ schedule this season.

Weakness: Questions at several spots on the offensive line

The Texans have had a relatively weak offensive line for a while now. It varies year to year largely depending on the health of solid left tackle Duane Brown. However, even when Brown is playing well their other offensive line spots are hardly settled. Their guard play hasn’t been great for the past several years and they have struggled to find talent at right tackle, too. Last season they seemingly solved the problem at center, despite the fact that their draft pick at center was lost for the season. This will be an area for the Bengals to take advantage of and it will be nice to see how the defensive line does in Week 2.

Weakness: At quarterback, the Texans are choosing between Tom Savage (who was not impressive last year) and rookie Deshaun Watson

The case of Dak Prescott is unusual, as it’s rare for a rookie quarterback to be that good. It makes sense the Texans aren’t expecting Watson to come in and start immediately and be a difference maker. However, the guy who is ahead of him, Savage, is not much better. Savage may be better than Brock Osweiler, but that is still not saying much. He struggles with inaccuracy on basic throws and has trouble progressing through his first read. No matter who starts for the Texans, they will most likely not be dominating, so hopefully the Bengals are finally able to beat the Texans with a bad quarterback. That said, new quarterbacks can often have tricks up their sleeves, as the Bengals saw with Trevor Siemian and the Broncos in Week 3 last year, so the team will need to avoid that trap if Watson is starting come Week 2.

Strength: Even after losing A.J. Bouye and Quintin Demps, the Texans still have a very talented secondary including former Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph

A.J. Bouye was one of the biggest surprises of last season. No one saw his breakout season coming as he entered the season as the fourth string cornerback on the Texans and finished the year as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. I’m sure the Texans are surprised too. So much so they let him walk away in free agency, despite playing better than any other cornerback on their roster. However, even after letting him walk, they still have one of the NFL’s top secondaries with Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson and Kevin Johnson.

Strength: The Texans boast arguably the best pass rushing trio in the league with J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus

The Texans have easily the scariest trifecta of pass rushers in the NFL. Despite missing J.J. Watt for all of last season, the team still had a deadly pass rush with Clowney and Mercilus, two very talented pass rushers. Clowney finally showed the talent and athleticism that warranted him being the top overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Now this season they theoretically have those two players at the same level (if not a higher level), plus the most talented pass rusher since Lawrence Taylor was dominating the league. This pass rush would be tough to stop for the best offensive line in the league, and we all know the Bengals’ offensive line will be far from the league’s best. This will be a very tough test for a Bengals offensive line coming off a short week in just the second game of the year.

1 player to watch: Deandre Hopkins

After having a down year in 2016—largely due to his terrible quarterback—Hopkins looks to bounce back in 2017 with a big year like he had in 2015. You could contribute his numbers in 2016 largely to something I like to call the Brock Osweiler effect. With a quarterback who couldn’t go down field in 2016, Hopkins’ value was brought way down. In 2017, he should at worst be playing with more accurate and more aggressive quarterbacks in Savage and Watson. For him to truly reach his ceiling, Watson would have to emerge as a solid NFL quarterback, but Hopkins is certainly scary even with Savage.