The Houston Texans are tied for the best record in the AFC but are a three-point underdog to a team that has lost three of their last four. Obviously this is because no one knows how far the Texans can go with T.J. Yates as their quarterback. However, if the Texans can succeed in a few key areas, the Texans not only could win, but should win.
For all of the praise that Gary Kubiak has garnered (and rightfully so) for his offense, this team is led by one of the best defenses in the NFL and it will have to play like that for the Texans to have a chance to win this game.
The Bengals offense isn’t explosive (19th ranked passing offense and 20th ranked rushing offense) but the Texans will need short fields and plenty of opportunities to get the ball into the end zone. The Bengals are currently sporting the sixth ranked rush defense in the NFL which means it will be hard for the Texans to string together a 10-play drive to score.
Even in their losses, the Bengals have done a good job against opposing running backs. In the last month they faced the Steelers twice, the Ravens and the Browns. Rashard Mendenhall went for 44 yards and 60 yards, respectively. Ray Rice rushed for 104 yards, but 59 of those came on one play. Peyton Hillis had 19 carries for a measly 65 yards.
This Bengals defense is no friend to running backs and if the Texans expect to simply run the ball down their throat, they will be severely disappointed by the results.
The Texans will need to take advantage of any short fields they get and will need to get big plays from their play-makers. That could come in the form of Arian Foster breaking a screen pass for a 60 yard gain, Jacoby Jones returning a punt, or the defense scoring on a sack fumble.
Every game for the rest of the season will have to be a total team effort for the Texans, but if they can put together that type of performance, this team could end up being very special. If it is, T.J. Yates will get a lot of credit, but it will be the entire 53-man roster that deserves it because there is no way this team wins or loses based on the performance of one player.