In what was the ugliest game in two and half years, the Bengals face a must-win scenario on a short week. The Texans will be without five players due to injury, as well as performing as bad or worse than Cincinnati in week one. Here are the 5 keys to a Bengals win:
Carl Lawson, Jordan Willis, and Chris Smith – The starting left side of Houston’s line, OT Kendall Lamm and OG Xavier Sua-Filo were abysmal in week one against Jacksonville. While the right side wasn’t good, the left was the weakness. The newcomers who will be filling the RDE spot for the Bengals are going to have to take advantage of it. They all showed ability in the preseason and Lawson got pressure in week one. Cincinnati native and Anderson HS grad Greg Mancz may end up starting for Sua-Filo after filling in last week on each of the guard spots. He started all last season at center. Regardless, the Bengals defense, while played fairly well last week, needs to do a better job giving the offense better starting field position and sacks play a huge role in that.
Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher – They are a key every week. In order for the Bengals to beat anyone decent, the tackles have to be better. Ogbuehi gave up two sacks (one was the sack-fumble) and Fisher gave up one (along with two VERY questionable holding calls) last week and the situation only gets tougher. J.J. Watt and Jadaveon Clowney will be the defenders staring them in the face this week. While keeping Dalton completely upright is probably impossible, regardless of who is blocking, they must give him more time. When Andy had time against the Ravens, he found open receivers and made plays. It won’t take a ton of offense to get a win, but the need to sustain drives and control field position is crucial to a victory.
Pacman Jones – While Deandre Hopkins lines up all over the field, he spends most of his time outside on the left side on the field. This means that he will be lined up across from Pacman, who will be back from his one game suspension. After all three tight ends on the roster suffered concussions and are now unlikely to play, Deshaun Watson will become even more dependent on Hopkins. Jones, along with William Jackson, will have to be up for the challenge all game long. If Hopkins can be held in check, the Texans will have a hard time getting anything going on offense.
1st and 2nd Down – All of the talk always goes to third down conversions, but the key Thursday, and the rest of the year will always be about 1st and 2nd down. The offensive line is not set up for 3rd and long situations. For the Bengals to be successful, they must gain positive yards on early downs to set up manageable situations. Establishing an early running game is key to success throughout the night.
Redzone – The Bengals got into the endzone on just 53% on their redzone trips a year ago, down from 65% in 2015. Many believed that could be blamed on having A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert on the field together in just 2 of the 16 games. However, Sunday, the Bengals entered the redzone three times and not only didn’t score a touchdown, they didn’t score a point (obviously). To get where they want, they need to get back to scoring touchdowns about 2/3 of time inside the 20.
Prediction: Bengals 16-10. Watt and Clowney will cause problems for the Bengals, but the Texans lack any type of fire power on the offensive side of the ball. Dalton bounces back to make enough plays and the trio of running backs help the Bengals control the clock.