It's Bengals week, which doesn't seemingly have as much cache as it being "Colts Week" or "Titans Week", but a holiday matchup with Cincinnati awaits on Sunday. The Bengals have only three wins on the season, but one of those came on Monday night at home against the 11-3 Steelers 27-17. Some thought it was more of an upset than the Jets beating the Rams in Los Angeles the day prior. Either way, the Bengals have continued to play hard for second year head coach Zac Taylor.
The problem for the Bengals throughout the last six weeks has been the inability to score, especially since 2020 number one overall draft pick Joe Burrow went down to injury. Since the Bengals week nine bye week, prior to the Monday Night matchup, they scored no more than 10 points just once (17 in a loss to the Giants). Yet, on Monday night against the Steelers, the Bengals produced 27 points against one of the best defenses in the league (although they generated just 230 yards of total offense).
Defensively, the Bengals are sneaky hot. They don't have a Pro Bowler on that side of the ball, but they should. Safety Jesse Bates III was snubbed after a fantastic year and the rest of the defense has played well together, especially the past few weeks.
Now, the Texans have won eight of the last nine matchups with Cincinnati, but the Bengals are coming in on a high after being the Steelers. They certainly won't be in a giving mood in Houston, that's for sure. With no further ado, let's get to Know Our Week Sixteen Foe - the Cincinnati Bengals.
2020 Schedule (3-10-1)
L, Los Angeles Chargers 16-13
L, @ Cleveland Browns 35-30
T, @ Philadelphia Eagles 23-23
W, Jacksonville Jaguars 33-25
L, @ Baltimore Ravens 27-3
L, @ Indianapolis Colts 31-27
L, Cleveland Browns 37-34
W, Tennessee Titans 31-20
L, @ Pittsburgh Steelers 36-10
L, @ Washington Football Team 20-9
L, New York Giants 19-17
L, @ Miami Dolphins 19-7
L, Dallas Cowboys 30-7
W, Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17
Bengals OFFENSE (in 2020 regular season)
Rushing Yards Per game - 96.6 ypg (27th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 216.4 ypg (26th)
Total offense per game - 312.9 ypg (30th)
Turnovers lost - 22 (9 INT, 13 Fumbles lost)
Expected Bengals starting offense for Week Sixteen
QB - Ryan Finley
RB - Gio Bernard
WR - Tee Higgins
WR - Tyler Boyd
WR - A.J. Green
TE - Drew Sample
LT - Fred Johnson
LG - Xavier Su'a-Filo
C - Trey Hopkins
RG - Quenton Spain
RT - Bobby Hart
Other Key Offensive pieces
RB - Samaje Perine
TE - Cethan Carter
WR - Alex Erickson
LT - Hakeem Adeniji
Bold - Rookie
Updated Keys to winning v. the Bengals Offense
- Highpoint Higgins - Rookie receiver Tee Higgins has emerged as the Bengals most dangerous receiver. Tyler Boyd is a superb receiver, but Higgins has produced more touchdowns (five to four) and a higher average yards per catch (13.3 ypc to 10.8 ypc) as a rookie. The most difficult aspect of facing Higgins is his ability to go up over defensive backs and make catches that defensive backs struggle to defense. It's imperative that the Texans defensive backs punch, rip and attack at the catch point when Higgins has his hands on the ball.
- Surround Gio - Veteran running back Gio Bernard has stepped up to be the Bengals number one back in Joe Mixon's stead. He won't pound on the Texans defense but he has the ability to make undisciplined tackle attempts go awry. The Texans second and third level defenders must urround him with multiple defenders and get him to the ground before Gio turns an open field tackle attempt into an And-1 viral video.
- Attack the edges - the Bengals tackles have struggled to keep edge rushers away from the Bengals quarterbacks. As a unit, the Bengals offense has given up 48 sacks and Bengals quarterbacks have been pressured 135 times and yielded 51 quarterback hits. The Texans are going to get pressure off the edge, especially without Jonah Williams at left tackle. Hopefully, HOPEFULLY, that will lead to Key number 5.
- Pigskin Pastries, PLEASE! - Let's go to the bakery this weekend and get some turnovers! It's the holidays and we need turnovers!
Bengals DEFENSE (in 2020 regular season)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 128.4 ypg (26th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 244.0 ypg (20th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 372.4 ypg (22nd)
Turnovers generated - 15 (10 INT, 5 Fumble recoveries - Bengals are -7 in TO margin)
Expected Bengals starting defense for Week Sixteen
DE - Sam Hubbard
DT - Mike Daniels
DT - Christian Covington
DE - Carl Lawson
LB - Josh Bynes
LB - Germaine Pratt
CB - Darius Phillips
S - Vonn Bell
S - Jesse Bates III
Nickel - Mackenzie Alexander
CB - William Jackson III
Other Key Defensive pieces
DE - Margus Hunt
DT - Amani Bledsoe
LB - Akeem Davis-Gaither
Bold - Rookie
Keys to winning v. the Bengals Defense
- Don't let Carl wreck the game - Bengals defensive end Carl Lawson isn't a household name, but after Monday night, people/teams became well aware of his prowess. In the win over the Steelers on Monday Night Football, Lawson had just one sack, but he hit Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger six times throughout the game. He won 1-on-1 battles all night long and the Texans tackles will have their hands full. Speaking of...
- Rod on the Right - With Tytus Howard going on to IR after last week's game at Indianapolis, Rod Johnson, more than likely, moves into the starting lineup on the right side. He's done a solid job this season in pass protection and with Lawson out on the edge, there's a good chance Rod will see Lawson a fair amount on Sunday afternoon. The thing is when Rod's on the field, the Texans haven't given up many sacks at all this season and here's hoping that continues on Sunday.
- Wide Receiver David Johnson - Whether it was by design or it just evolved in the second half of last week's game against the Colts, Texans running back David Johnson put his receiving skills on display. When the Texans first traded for Johnson, the first Telestrator I did was a feature on his ability as a receiver. The nine catches in the second half against the Colts did nothing but confirm his value in the passing game. What his presence in the passing game also did was give quarterback Deshaun Watson an outlet when the pressure surrounded him in the pocket. By design or happenstance, Johnson finally became the weapon in the passing game we expected at the outset of the season.
- Don't be late - The old adage goes that quarterbacks can't throw late, especially across the middle of the field. Sometimes quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson can get away with it because of their movement skills, but this week throwing over the middle, late or on-time actually, will be a challenge because of Bengals safety Jesse Bates III. The Bengals safety was snubbed for the Pro Bowl in a season in which he has 97 tackles, three interceptions and 12 passes defensed in just 14 games. When the ball is in his vicinity, he will go get it and the Texans can't afford to be in a Holiday mood in the passing game this weekend.