Bengals take on Tom Savage and the Houston Texans

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Nov 16, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) carries the ball while being defended by Houston Texans defensive back Eddie Pleasant (35) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 16, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (25) carries the ball while being defended by Houston Texans defensive back Eddie Pleasant (35) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Texans have been the Bengals’ late-season Achilles heel in recent years. In a season that’s turned everything fans thought they knew about Cincinnati football upside down, can the Bengals finally reverse the trend?

The Houston Texans are the league’s best team when it comes to handing the Bengals crushing losses late in the year. It’s become something of a tradition. They knocked Cincinnati out of the playoffs twice in the past five years—once in 2011 and a second time in 2012. At 3-5, they shocked the NFL when they handed the 8-0 Bengals their first loss last season. Is Cincinnati in for yet another painful defeat?

Bengals Advantages

Tom Savage

It’s Tom Savage’s first career start in the NFL, and only his fourth ever appearance. Despite not playing a snap since 2014, last week Savage was deemed by head coach Bill O’Brien to give the Texans a better chance to win than Brock Osweiler did. But, that hasn’t been a very high bar to clear. Osweiler averages 5.75 yards per attempt (league worst) and has 16 picks (2nd worst), so the fact that Savage still rode the pine for 14 weeks should reassure nervous Bengals fans.

Texans Defensive Woes

The perennially vaunted Houston defense is not at full strength. JJ Watt has been out since the beginning of the year with a back injury, the impact of which cannot be overstated. Watt traditionally shifts along the defensive line to rush against his opponent’s weakest blocker. With the Bengals recent struggles at right tackle, this would have been devastating.

The Texans’ secondary is also no longer what it once was. Father Time has finally taken his toll on 32 year-old Jonathan Joseph, an ex-Bengal and Houston’s best corner from a year ago. Kareem Jackson is also having something of a down year, managing only one interception and four passes defensed in 12 games this season. Andy Dalton should be able to take advantage of this generally mediocre cornerback group for Houston.

Bengals Disadvantages

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Houston’s Quarterback History

Lackluster quarterback play has yet to derail the Texans when they’ve played the Bengals. In the past five years alone, Houston has beaten Cincinnati once with Brian Hoyer at the helm, once with Matt Schaub, and twice with TJ Yates. Those are all quarterbacks that usually evoke feelings of pity for any team they end up starting games for. They’re definitely not a collection of guys one would expect to leave the Bengals winless.

Tom Savage

An advantage and a disadvantage? What? Tom Savage is unproven. He could end up better than the aforementioned QBs, but, as of now, it’s too early to tell. But what is clear, though, is that he’s better at getting the ball to Deandre Hopkins than Brock Osweiler ever was. Savage has a cannon of an arm and has no trouble putting the ball outside the numbers for a dynamic “Nuke” Hopkins that could terrorize Cincinnati’s generally shorter cornerbacks.

Texans Defensive Playmakers

Additionally, despite Houston’s underperforming corners and the absence of JJ Watt, they still have difference-makers on defense. Jadeveon Clowney was selected for his first Pro-Bowl this year, and linebackers Bernardrick McKinney and Whitney Mercilus are developing into the next generation of dominant defensive playmakers. Safeties Quintin Demps and Andre Hal are nothing to sneeze at either, tallying a combined total of 6 interceptions this year.

Next: Bengals’ Offense Needs An Immediate Overhaul

Win or lose this week, the Bengals will get a nice gift on Christmas Eve this year. With a win, Cincinnati can begin generating some momentum and enter the offseason full of optimism for next season. With a loss, the 2017 NFL Draft just keeps getting better.

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