Texans vs. Bengals: Staff predictions

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Nov 1, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus (59) and defensive end J.J. Watt (99) sack Tennessee Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger (7) in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. Houston won 20-6. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Ethan Lington: Staff Writer

Game: Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals

Prediction: The Texans looked good before the bye against arguably the worst team in the NFL. They dominated the weaker foe, and that is just what the doctor ordered before they head into the gauntlet that is their second half of the schedule. They have games coming up against the Bengals, Jets, Patriots, Bills, and Colts. Winning 2 out of 5 of those is even asking a lot if you base that off of their first half performances.

Coming out of the bye, the Texans had a full extra week to prepare and get healthier for their Monday Night Football showdown with Cincinnati. Now, they’ve had some past successes against this Andy Dalton-led Bengal squad, but this team is more talented that any they have faced since 2011. They bounced the Bengals in back to back divisional playoff rounds in 2011 & 2012, where Andy Dalton choked and made people doubt his abilities. He has since thoroughly silenced any doubt while leading his team to an 8-0 start in 2015. He’s second in the NFL only to Tom Brady in total QBR, and has 18 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions. He’s completing his passes at an almost 70% clip. This is going to be an uphill battle for the Texans.

Not only does Cinci boast an absolutely loaded offense with the likes of Dalton, A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, but they have an absolutely solid defense as well. They rank 11th in total defense, but 4th overall in scoring defense. As I said…it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Brian Hoyer will have to play absolutely perfect, and history would say that he’s capable of that, especially against this Bengals team. He will get some help outside from emerging superstar DeAndre Hopkins, but other players will need to step up. Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes, and Chris Polk HAVE to get the running game going early to open up the pass, and Nate Washington, Cecil Shorts III, and Jaelen Strong will need to help take pressure off of Hopkins in the passing game. All of that must be predicated by a good offensive line performance against a solid pass rushing defense. Again, I repeat, it’s going to be a rough, uphill battle if they want to sniff at victory.

I think the Texan defense has turned a corner after a 7 sack, 3 turnover performance in their last action. Nobody can ever block J.J. Watt and he should be disruptive all day after getting a week to rest his body.

Next: Top 30 moments in Texans history

I believe the Texans will eventually fall late, but they will lose in heartbreaking fashion…making it frustratingly close.

Final Score: Cincinnati 24, Houston 20