The Cincinnati Bengals are 5-3 and have returned to the AFC race. The Stripes came away with a 24-18 win over the Buffalo Bills last Sunday night, which put them on a four-game winning streak, and with a healthy quarterback, this team is ready to show off its true ability. With their name back in the conversation of teams to watch at the end of the year, they will have to keep the focus and drive if they want to meet their goals.
The 4-4 Houston Texans are coming to town, but don’t be fooled by their record. Their rookie quarterback is breaking records and has the ability to put up huge numbers. Even more impressive is that he wins games despite having big star names surrounding him. However, Houston has ruled out five staters for this game, making it an uphill battle on the road with a team that is on a winning streak.
This game, without a doubt, will be a fun matchup to watch and should have should have the home crowd at Payco Stadium rocking.
Burrow is a threat every time he steps on the field.
Bengal’s quarterback Joe Burrow looks to be back to normal as he threw for 348 yards and two touchdowns against the Bills last week. He will make it hard for the Texans to defend since he spreads the ball around. During that game, he hit eight different players with a pass.
The Texans are coming into this game with several key injuries, including starting safety Jimmy Ward and cornerback Steven Nelson. Burrow’s former LSU teammate, cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., is expected to be activated from injured reserve after being injured in practice seven weeks ago. Stingley has allowed four catches for 37 yards and no scores on six targets for the season in the games he has played this season. Burrow will test Stingley’s skills as he tries to return to normal.
With the injury behind him, Burrow has been working out of center more, adding play actions and taking off for a first down if need be. Burrow’s quick decision-making, fast release, and ability to make plays outside the pocket should overwhelm a Texans’ defensive who has struggled this season.
The Bengals have a new threat within their offense.
With three of the best receivers in the league, the Bengals are not known for using their tight ends like other teams; however, that all changed last week when Burrow threw to three different tight ends for 101 yards. Irv Smith Jr. started it off on the first dive of the game with a touchdown. Drew Sample followed up later with a touchdown of his own. Tanner Hudson, who was signed off the practice squad, had four receptions for 45 yards and some key third downs.
Look for this trio to play more of a role this week, as the Bengals’ receiving corp is banged up, and Houston struggles against defending tight ends.
Don’t look now, but the Bengals offensive line is starting to gel
The Bengals’ offensive line could have played better at the beginning of the season but have started to gel in their last four games. This group has certainly seen their share of some of the best defenses the NFL has to offer, but this will be different with the Texans.
Houston has one of the league’s lowest sack totals but a top-five pressure rating. Rookie pass rusher Will Anderson is someone to keep an eye on. With a knee injury, he was limited earlier in the week but appeared okay to play on Sunday. Anderson, who has only recorded two sacks this season, will be matched against all-pro left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
The Bengals’ run game is back.
The Bengals running back, Joe Mixon, has proven he is on a mission this season. He has already generated a team-best 490 yards rushing on 126 attempts, with three rushing touchdowns. He has gotten the tough yards when called on and even eluded Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Von Miller’s diving tackle attempt last week to close out the game against the Bills.
As the Texan’s injuries mount up, you can add starting linebacker Henry To’oto’o to the list. He will miss this game due to a concession. His absence could open up more of the run game.
Could this be the week that the Bengals give Trayveon Williams and Chris Evans more opportunity while resting Mixon? After all, the Bengals have a short week before they take on a very tough Baltimore Ravens team next Thursday night. Keeping Mixon’s legs fresh for that game should be a priority.
Opportunity awaits a young Bengals receiving room.
The Bengals may need to be more patient this week at receiver. Tee Higgins was ruled out for the game after injuring his hamstring during practice. Then, Bengal’s head coach Zac Taylor said that Ja’Marr Chase would be a game-time decision after injuring his back during the Bills game.
This would not be the first time the Bengal’s top receivers missed a game simultaneously. It happened 11 months ago against the Browns, and Burrow came out on top by spreading the ball around.
With Higgins out, keep an eye on rookie wide receiver Andrei Iosivas. The 6-3, 205-pound has recorded two touchdowns in the red zone this season and is looking to add to it. Rookie Charlie Jones has returned from IR and may be activated for this game. Jones made a splash as the punt returner as he had an 81-yard return for a touchdown in Week Two and averaged nearly 10 yards a return on seven other chances in that role.
Stroud must not be allowed to get started.
Texan’s rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud has become quite the standout for their offense. This past Sunday, he threw for 470 yards, setting the NFL’s rookie record while leading his team to a win over the Buccaneers.
Stroud’s favorite target receiver, Nico Collins, is out with a calf injury, so this may limit his production somewhat. However, he also has fellow rookie sensation receiver Tank Dell to throw to. Dell has the speed and precise route running for big plays downfield, and together, these two can keep the Texans in the game.
Let’s not forget about Houston’s tight end, Dalton Schultz, who racked up 130 yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay. The Bengals need to improve on containing the tight-end position a little more, and this is the perfect week to do it before seeing the Ravens’ Mark Andrews next week.
Sample ready to make his first start this season
The Bengals’ hometown hero and team captain, Sam Hubbard, has been declared out for this game, leaving Cam Sample to take over. When describing Sample’s play, what comes to mind is his consistency and versatility in playing tackle and defensive end. He has the ability to get to the quarterback while stopping the run.
Sample will be sharing the spotlight with first-round draft pick Myles Murphy. This could be the perfect time for Murphy to earn more playing time moving forward if he can provide a steady pass rush against Stroud.
The Bengal’s secondary will cause problems for the Texans.
Man, has the Bengals’ secondary been playing lights out this season while contributing to the team’s success? Cornerback Cam Tayor-Britt is having a breakout season and has picked off three interceptions, making him a threat and a genuine concern as Stroud searches for his receivers.
The Bengals are just two picks away from matching last year’s total number of interceptions on defense. They have 11 overall and 15 turnovers total. In 2022, Cincinnati recorded 13 interceptions and another 11 fumble recoveries.
The Bengals have found their winning formula, and they will again need to start with a fast start while playing with a lead. Keeping the penalties to a minimum and forcing turnovers will seal the deal. Turning up the heat on the rookie Stroud and cutting off his receivers will be critical. This game has all the making of a trap game, so the Bengals must stay focused.
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