Nov 23, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt (99) and outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (90) in action against the Cincinnati Bengals at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
The Cincinnati Bengals have been winning games that they should be, which is a huge key to a franchise best 8-0 start. Monday Night will be no different as the Bengals will play host to the Houston Texans. The Texans role into town off of their bye week, with hopes to fix an offense that is struggling to find its identity under head coach Bill O’Brian. The defense, led by J.J. Watt, will be looking to get back to the dominance it has previously known.
Meanwhile, the Bengals will be looking to add another win to their franchise best start and go 9-0, to keep pace with the New England Patriots and their franchise years as well. The offense is looking better than it has been in the 25 years since their last Super Bowl appearance. The defense will look to fix a few mistakes they faced in the first half on Thursday night and strike hard against Brian Hoyer and this Texans offense, which has had it’s fair share of struggles.
Key to the Game #1: Contain the Pass Rush
The Texans are led by one of the hardest working defensive lineman in the NFL. J.J. Watt is someone that most teams wished they would had. He is tied this season with Carols Dunlap for the second most sacks in the NFL and he will be looking to continue his dominance against Dalton and company. The Bengals will need to stop not only Watt, but also Whitney Marcilus, who will be coming off the same edge as Watt. He had 3.5 sacks against the Tennessee Titans and is second on the team with 5.5 sacks on the season.
Key to the Game #2: Established a Balanced Offense Early
I feel like a broken record but this is the heart and soul of the Bengals offense, is the ability to establish a balanced offense early. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are just as important to the Bengals game plan as Andy Dalton and the receiving core. When Hill and Bernard have rushed for over 100 yards combined, the Bengals have won by an average of 14.9 points. When they have run for under 100 yards, that margin drops to 4.3 points. It takes pressure off of Andy Dalton and keeps the defense respecting both aspects of the offense.
Key to the Game #3: Contain DeAndre Hopkins
There have been very few wide receivers as good as DeAndre Hopkins has been so far for the Texans. If you have him in fantasy, you know what I mean. He is a rare talent, but luckily for the Bengals, our defense faces someone similar in talent every practice. Adam Jones will most likely have the assignment on Monday night to cover Hopkins and as long as he gets help over the top, they should do just fine. Reggie Nelson is primed to help and sneak over the top to defend and maybe steal a ball or two in terms of interception. This should definately be a match up to watch.
If the Bengals can pull out their second prime time win in a row, they will head to Arizona to face the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals a perfect 9-0. This game isn’t as easy as the Texans record would suggest, but it will be interesting to see if the Bengals can keep up their franchise record pace.