Monday Night Preview: Texans at Bengals

The Sports Xchange

November 16, 2015 at 11:00 am.

Nov 5, 2015; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert (85) celebrates with quarterback Andy Dalton (14) and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (77) after scoring on a 9-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter during an NFL football game at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert (85), 6-6, 250 pounds, has been targeted 53 teams and is coming off of a three-touchdown game. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Texans (3-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-0)

Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, at Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati – TV: ESPN

*TV announcers: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters

*Keys to the game: Houston is dead-last in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry and the Texans have lost several games in which the offense must be turned over to QB Brian Hoyer in desperation mode for most of the second half. The Bengals thrive on penetration from their front four, and if the ground game stalls again, Houston must be able to complete high-percentage throws before Cincinnati’s pass rush gets home. With minimal contributions from their tight ends, the Texans will get the ball to backs on short throws to counter the rush but the Bengals aren’t averse to blitzing to break Hoyer’s rhythm.

Cincinnati hit 8-0 for the first time in franchise history because the Bengals have balance. Perhaps only New England has the same ability to attack the individual weaknesses of opponents with a chameleon game plan. The combination of RBs Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard forces Houston’s edge players to respect play-action and also defend underneath and flare patterns. The Texans, even while allowing 4.9 yards per carry between the tackles this season, are optimistic the defense is just hitting its stride. DE J.J. Watt and Co. had seven sacks and 14 quarterback hits against the Titans the last time out.

*Matchup to watch – Bengals TE Tyler Eifert vs. Texans pass defense: Houston head coach Bill O’Brien called Eifert a unique talent and a matchup problem for every team. Eifert, 6-6, 250 pounds, has been targeted 53 teams and is coming off of a three-touchdown game. The Texans plan to slow him coming off the line, but Eifert has a good first step and makes catches in traffic.

*Player spotlight – Texans RT Derek Newton: Speed rushes give Newton fits and the Bengals have exposed weak links in pass sets all season. Dunlap is tied for the NFL lead with Watt and New England’s Chandler Jones with 8.5 sacks. His combination of speed, strength and aggressiveness is difficult to contain.

*Fast facts: The Bengals are 11-20 all-time on “Monday Night Football.” … Hoyer set the team record with multiple touchdown passes in five consecutive games and goes for a sixth Monday.


The Bengals pound the ball early and break out the pyrotechnics to TE Tyler Eifert and WR A.J. Green in the second half to shock and awe the downtrodden Texans.

*Our pick: Bengals 24-12.