Bengals, Texans Look To Rebound On Thursday Night

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The Bengals and Texans surely want to forget their performances on Sunday.

The Bengals didn’t score a point against the Ravens on Sunday. Andy Dalton threw four picks, and the defense got worn down. The offensive line also struggled mightily in keeping a clean pocket.

The Texans were overwhelming favorites heading into week one, but 11 Jaguar sacks and a very good performance from Leonard Fournette proved to be their downfall. The defensive front didn’t look as dominant as we expected. Also, the Texans still sit with an issue at quarterback. Obviously, it was only Watson’s first NFL game, but the inexperience hurts this team.

Luckily, both teams have the opportunity to right the ship tonight. Unfortunately, someone will fall to 0-2 at night’s end. Let’s dive in to the preview.

The Debut Of John Ross

John Ross, the ninth overall selection back in April, makes his debut tonight. Last week, AJ Green drew plenty of attention from the Ravens. There were a couple plays where he grabbed the attention of three Raven defenders.

So what does the debut of Ross mean? Ross has the top end speed to hurt NFL defenses down the field. The Texans have a solid secondary, but the addition of Ross makes things more difficult. If he can make an impact early, he will free up AJ Green more.

Can The Texans Protect Watson?

The Jaguars ate the Texans for lunch on the edge last week. The Bengals have some premier players along their line, plus a rookie ready to prove he was drafted way too late.

To win this game, Houston needs to give DeShaun Watson enough time to maneuver in the pocket and find options down the field. If the offensive line crumbles again, the Texans could be behind just like they were on Sunday.

It all starts up front with center Nick Martin. As Brandon Thorn pointed out, Martin had an excellent day, even though his teammates did not. He needs to put in another good performance tonight.

Let’s Flip It 180 Degrees

The trenches are the obvious focus tonight. While the Texans will have issues if they don’t block for Watson tonight, the same situation exists in Cincinnati. And, in this case, the Texans are much more dangerous up front. JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus are all excellent rushers. The Bengals have Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher starting at tackle this season. Those two are very inexperienced with the first team.

The Bengals may need to change up the game plan for tonight. Short, quick passes will always neutralize the rush. Draw plays with Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard are also smart calls. And, if the Texans get extra aggressive, screen plays will work out well.

If the Texans consistently get to Dalton, we could see a similar game to Baltimore on Sunday.

X-Factors

Bengals: Geno Atkins

The push for the Bengals begins up front, and Atkins can directly affect both dimensions of the offense. He can be a space eater in the running game, while also generating enough push inside to get to the quarterback. He is key to containing DeShaun Watson and getting the defense off of the field.

Texans: Bernardrick McKinney

People forget about McKinney, in part because his buddy Brian Cushing is constantly in the news. McKinney had a very solid season last year, and even worked up to calling plays at the mike spot. Now, Cushing is suspended for 10 games, and McKinney is right back being the guy in the middle. He needs to control the middle of the field and help out a bunch downhill.

The Pick

I firmly expect a defensive battle in this one. I mean, we talked about both offensive lines struggling. That alone leads to an ugly one in Cincinnati tonight. Two big things stand out in this one.

First, DeShaun Watson is making his first true start for the Texans on the road in a hostile environment.

Second, the Bengals get a little more dynamic with John Ross returning.

Those are the keys. If Watson plays well, the Texans can pull out a win on the road. But, I’m trusting the home team and the more experienced quarterback. Plus, more weapons on offense.

Bengals 20, Texans 16

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