RB Cedric Benson leads the NFL in rushing yardage and has the Bengals off to a 4-1 start in 2009.
The Texans (2-3) head to Ohio on Sunday for a Week 6 tussle with the Cincinnati Bengals (4-1) at 12 p.m. CT.
Head coach Marvin Lewis and the Bengals impressively turned back the Ravens in Week 5, triumphing in Baltimore in a 17-14 game. It was the Bengals' fourth consecutive victory and put them atop the AFC North.
Lewis is in season number seven as Bengals head coach, one year shy of tying Paul Brown and Sam Wyche for the franchise's longest tenure. Under Lewis, the Bengals claimed an AFC North Division championship in 2005, and they did not have a losing season in his first five years (2003-07). The Bengals are looking to rebound in 2009 after losing their first eight games of the 2008 season before scrapping to finish 4-11-1.
OFFENSE Quarterback: Starter Carson Palmer has thrown for 1,116 yards and seven touchdowns in their first five games. He has also led the team to three come-from-behind wins against Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore, as all three victories were decided by three points.
Last Sunday in Baltimore, the former USC Trojan found Andre Caldwell for 20 yards and a touchdown with 22 seconds left in the game to seal the road win for Cincinnatti. On the afternoon, he was 18-of-31 for 271 yards and the touchdown and also was picked off once.
Palmer's best year in the league came in 2005 when he threw for 3,836 yards and 32 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions. He was selected for his first Pro Bowl that year but was unable to play due to injury. Palmer came back to win Pro Bowl MVP honors the following year.
Running back: One of the biggest surprises for the Bengals has been the success of running back Cedric Benson. After Benson was cut by the Chicago Bears prior to training camp in 2008, he signed with the Bengals in late September playing in the last 12 games (10 starts) of the season. The former Texas Longhorn had a career year, running for 747 yards and adding a career-best 185 receiving yards.
Benson has picked up right where he left off with three touchdowns an NFL-best 487 yards and three touchdowns through five games. Benson has rushed for 100 or more yards twice this season and a total of seven times for his career.
Bernard Scott has picked up 45 yards on 10 carries, with his best performance coming in the fourth quarter and overtime of the Week 4 victory at Cleveland. In that game, Scott carried the ball six times for 41 yards. Scott played collegiately in west Texas at Abilene Christian University.
Wide receiver: The headliner of the group is Chad Ochocinco, who has 24 receptions for 352 yards and three touchdowns. Sunday against the Ravens, Ochocinco caught a game-high seven receptions for 94 yards.
Through the first five games, Ochocinco is regaining form after a disappointing 2008 season that saw him catch only 53 balls for 540 yards and four touchdowns, all career lows since becoming a regular starter in the league.
Laveranues Coles was signed from the Jets to help the passing attack and has 10 catches for 78 yards so far this season. Second-year wideout Andre Caldwell has stepped up as a solid third target for Palmer, making 18 catches for 181 yards and two scores to date.
Chris Henry was a big-play threat Sunday against the Ravens, finishing with 92 yards receiving on just three receptions. His 73-yard grab in the second quarter set up a Bengals field goal. A five-year veteran with Cincinnati, Henry's best season was in 2006, when he finished with nine touchdowns and better than 600 yards receiving.
Tight end: Daniel Coats started the first five games, recording eight catches for 86 yards. He didn't catch a pass in Week 5 against the Ravens. Coats earned starting position in the preseason following injuries to veteran tight ends Reggie Kelly and Ben Utecht. For his career, the third-year pro has 227 career receiving yards but has not scored a touchdown.
Coats' backup is J.P. Foschi, who has six receptions for 65 yards in 2009.
Offensive line: One of the Bengals' weaknesses in 2008 was their offensive line, which gave up 51 sacks, third-worst in the NFL. To help address concerns with the line, Cincinnati selected the Outland Trophy winner Andre Smith out of Alabama with the sixth overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft. But Smith held out for just over a month and injured his foot the first week in camp.
The line has been better so far this season, only allowing Palmer to be sacked 10 times through the first five games. It also has paved the way for the NFL's leading rusher in Benson, and on the whole, the run game is averaging 126.6 yards a game, the ninth-best total in the NFL.
DEFENSE Defensive line: Defensive end Antwan Odom has had a sensational start to the season, already tying his career high with eight sacks. That number is tied for best in the NFL along with Denver's Elvis Dumervil. Odom's best game was in Week 2 at Green Bay, when he registered five sacks, six tackles and a pass deflection. In 2007 with the Titans, Odom also tallied eight sacks.
Opposite Odom at the other end spot is Robert Geathers, who has 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks so far this season. Geathers has been a Bengal for six seasons now and finished with a career-high 10.5 sacks in 2006.
The interior of the Bengals' line features tackle Tank Johnson, who has just five total tackles and no sacks in the first five games, and tackle Domata Peko. Peko has 13 total tackles so far in 2009.
Linebacker: Keith Rivers leads the team in tackles with 29 (19 solo) in 2009. The second-year Bengal and former USC linebacker was Cincinnati's first-round draft choice in 2008, selected ninth overall. He had a solid first five games in his rookie season before breaking his jaw against Pittsburgh and missing the rest of the season.
Rivers is joined in the linebacking corps by fellow Trojan, 2009 second-round pick Rey Maualuga, who has started strong with 27 total tackles, a sack and a pass deflection.
The middle linebacker spot is manned by Dhani Jones, who has 28 total stops and a sack through the first five contests. Last season, Jones finished with 116 total tackles.
Secondary: At cornerback, Leon Hall has one interception in 2009 along with 18 total tackles. Hall picked off three passes in 2008 after a rookie campaign in 2007 that saw him intercept five passes.
The other starter at corner is Jonathan Joseph, and the fourth-year pro from the University of South Carolina has intercepted a pass in each of the last three games. He returned one 30 yards for a touchdown in Week 3 against the Steelers. Joseph also has tallied 17 total tackles in the first five games. For his career, he has intercepted eight passes.
Strong safety Roy Williams came to Cincinnati in the offseason, and his reunion with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has reinvigorated the former Cowboy. The 5-time Pro Bowler is second on the club with 28 total tackles and is displaying the form that made him an invaluable member of the Dallas defense during his first few years in the NFL.
Chinedum Ndukwe has been solid as Williams' backup, and even started the Week 4 concert that Williams sat out due to a forearm injury. Ndukwe has contributed with 16 total tackles and a sack.
Free safety Chris Crocker has been in on 26 stops, and during his seven years in the league has 347 career tackles and eight interceptions.
Special teams: At kicker, nine-year pro Shayne Graham has struggled. He has connected on 57.1 percent (4-of-7) of his field goal attempts and 90 percent (9-of-10) of his extra points, good for 21 points on the season. His career-long came on a 53-yard field goal in 2004 with the Bengals, and his season-long in 2009 was a 40-yard field goal in the Week 2 victory at Green Bay.
Rookie punter Kevin Huber won the job out of training camp and has averaged 42.5 yards per punt through five games, with 11 punts inside the 20-yard line. That mark ties him for fourth most in the NFL. Huber punted in college for the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Andre Caldwell has handled the bulk of the kickoff return duties, returning 17 kicks for an average of 20.4 yards. His longest return this season has gone for 39 yards.
Former Texas Longhorn Quan Cosby has returned 17 punts for an average 13.1 yards, and his longest return of 2009 has gone for 60 yards.