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'08 Game Preview: Bengals


Wide receiver Andre Johnson will have plenty of opportunities against Cincinnati.

As the Texans gear up for training camp, excitement for the 2008 season continues to build. Here is an in-depth look at each of the team's regular season games with some insights from SportsRadio 610's Marc Vandermeer.

Teams: Texans vs. Cincinnati Bengals (Sunday, Nov. 9)

Game Preview: Cincinnati, a team that posted a 7-9 record in 2007, visits Reliant Stadium in Week 10, and the Bengals don't look like they have made drastic upgrades this offseason to improve their team.

Last year, Cincy generated the fewest sacks in football and consequently gave up 230.4 passing yards per game, making their defense one of the weakest in the NFL. They lost starters at free safety (Madieu Williams), weakside linebacker (Landon Johnson) and left defensive end (Justin Smith), and they are counting on unproven talent to fill those voids. Keith Rivers, the ninth overall pick in April's draft, will replace Johnson, the team's leading tackler in 2006 and 2007. Marvin White is expected to take over free safety for Williams, while Chinedum Ndukwe and former Super Bowl hero Dexter Jackson will battle at strong safety. The team signed defensive end Antwan Odom from Tennessee to replace Smith. Odom registered eight sacks last year, but in the three previous seasons he had a combined 4.5 sacks.

{QUOTE}The gaping holes on the defensive line and in the secondary should allow the Texans to run a balanced offensive attack. Running back Ahman Green and company should be able to find holes and get to the end zone. Wideout Kevin Walter, a former Bengal, could catch a lot of passes as a slot receiver, especially if the secondary is preoccupied with defending Andre Johnson on deep routes.

"Antwan Odom now is a defensive end with them," Vandermeer said. "Keith Rivers, they drafted him at linebacker and he's going to end up starting for this team. And that secondary is going to have a lot of holes in it, so that might be an opportunity for the Texans to score a lot of points."

The Texans will face a tougher battle on defense. Quarterback Carson Palmer threw for 4,131 yards last year, directing most of those passes to wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who combined for 2,583 receiving yards. Johnson has threatened not to attend training camp and his antics could undermine the team's chemistry. Yet he still remains one of the most exciting receivers in football.

The Texans' secondary will have to play their best game to cover that pair and the d-line will have to put pressure on Palmer to limit his time in the pocket and disrupt his comfort level. Travis Johnson and Amobi Okoye, who excel as passing-rushing defensive tackles, could rack up some sacks against Palmer.

"You've got to find a way to stop the run and put pressure on Carson Palmer," Vandermeer said. "This could be a high-scoring game, if you look at it from where we stand now because of the way Cincinnati can move the football down the field."

Key Matchups: Defensive tackles Travis Johnson and Amobi Okoye pressuring quarterback Carson Palmer. Wide receiver Kevin Walter coming up big against his former team.

Vandermeer's pick: "I would say again, the Texans."

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