The Houston Texans have been a surprise team this season, heading into the matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals they are 4-4 and being carried by rookie phenom C.J. Stroud and a defense that is flawed but improved from prior seasons. They are a team on the rise already, and a lot of that is thanks to their stellar rookie head coach, Demeco Ryans.
Ryans has improved the team tremendously since his arrival, and he's put them in position to win far more games already than anyone thought possible. That said, they are still a team with some flaws, clearly. It's still a club on the rise and truthfully, a club still engaged to some degree in a rebuild.
They are expected to struggle, but if they can improve these three things against the Bengals, then they may not only win the day but may have set themselves up for future success this season.
Get after the quarterback
The Houston Texans are not good on defense when it comes to them getting after the quarterback. As a team they only have 17 sacks on the season, tied for 29th in the league in most sacks. The Texans and really every NFL team, can't have sustained success if they can't provide pressure on the quarterback as necessary. If the Texans can get to Joe Burrow and rough him up, then this may be a nice improvement for the rest of the year, and maybe give some guys some much needed confidence.
Stop the pass
The Houston Texans are a solid defense against the run, ranking 10th in the league in the fewest yards per game, and 3rd in the league in fewest yards per attempt. They're just dreadful against the pass, however. They give up the 11th most yards per game in the air and are a middle of the road team in yards per reception. The Bengals will pose a big threat in that area, so if they're able to slow down the Bengals high-powered offense, then maybe, just maybe, the Texans defense can continue to improve this season and with the return of corner Derek Stingley, Jr., the Texans have a shot at getting better this year.
Run the ball...
There was a time when the Houston Texans carried some pretty impressive running backs, and had an offensive line that could really open up holes. We're not in that era anymore and the team is collectively quite bad at runnin the ball. They're only 27th in the league in yards per game (87.0) and their leading rusher is Dameon Pierce, who has just 327 yards and 3.0 yards per carry. This is an area they struggle in and maybe putting together a decent day on the ground against the Bengals will help turn things around some.