Houston Texans (9-3, 8-3-1 ATS) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-5 SU, 7-4-1 ATS)
Sunday December 11th, 2011. 1:00PM EST, NFL Football Week 14
Paul Brown Stadium Cincinnati, O.H.
By Jay Horne, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Hou +3/CIN -3
Over/Under Total: 37.5
The Houston Texans have been hit with some devastating injuries in the past few weeks including losing both quarterbacks Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart. Still, the Texans proved last week they will remain a force to be reckoned with after another impressive 17-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. The win moved the Texans to 9-3 on the season which is tied for the best record in the AFC. This week the visiting Texans take the road to battle the Cincinnati Bengals as they seek their 7th consecutive victory.
The Bengals suffered an embarrassing blowout loss to Pittsburgh last week 35-7. The 28 point loss marked the biggest loss Cincinnati has faced since the 2009 regular season finale against the Jets in a game they lost 37-0. Not only was the loss embarrassing, but the Bengals have now dropped 3 of the last 4 games after a solid 6-2 start SU earlier this year. Cincinnati now faces a situation where they must right the ship in order to save their shot at the postseason. Luckily the Bengals have a few very winnable games remaining on the schedule, but this Sunday’s showdown with Houston will be a huge indicator in determining the Bengals fate.
Odds makers opened this game favoring the Bengals by 3 points over the Texans. Early betting action shows that nearly 70% of early betting action is in favor of Houston who are winners of 6 straight games. However, the Texans have not been that great of a road team having gone just 4-8 SU in their last 12 games on the road. Additionally, the Bengals have posted a strong 10-4-1 ATS mark in their last 15 games as well.
If you compare these teams on paper, the defenses are both very good with the Texans having the slight edge. After all, the Texans defense ranks 2nd overall allowing just 274 yards and 15.8 points per game. Still, Cincinnati’s defensive numbers are nothing to be ashamed of either. The Bengals have held opponents to 307 yards and 20.8 points per game. The problem is over the last 4 games Cincinnati has really struggled on defense giving up 28.5 points per contest. Earlier this year, the Bengals were playing extremely well on defense but have appeared to have lost their stride over the last few games. However this week, Cincinnati is in one of those must-win situations and perhaps that can bring out the better side of their defense once again.
For the Bengals defense, they definitely need to get pressure on Texans 3rd string QB T.J Yates and force him to be erratic. If that happens, perhaps Cincinnati can force a few turnovers and possibly keep the Texans offense out of the end zone. Houston did not look extremely sharp on offense with Yates behind center so any pressure than Bengals can produce upfront should be a big help.
Yates has completed just 50% passing for 258 yards with 1 score over the last two weeks which has been a big decrease in passing production. However, the Texans are a very balanced team that can run the ball extremely well when needed. Of course with the inexperience behind center, you might expect the Texans to run the ball quite often going forward. Running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate have been outstanding this season combining for over 1,600 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns.
Both backs have the chance to eclipse the 1,000 yard rushing mark and have helped the Texans average a stout 157 yards per game on the ground this season (3rd in NFL). Therefore even with concerns at quarterback, Houston should remain competitive with their very talented defense and rushing attack. The question will be if that combination is enough to keep the Texans rolling this Sunday against a Cincinnati defense that is trying to regain their confidence.
For Cincinnati on offense, the Bengals need to protect the ball as priority number 1. In the Bengals last 3 losses over the last 4 games; the Bengals have given the ball away 7 times in those 3 games. Cincinnati is -5 in the turnover margin during that period and that is a big reason the Bengals defense has given up more points than usual. Therefore, Cincinnati must protect the ball if they are going to get back into the win column.
QB Andy Dalton has been decent this season completing 59% passing for 2,644 yards with 17 scores and 12 picks on the season. Dalton reached a season low just a few weeks back after throwing 5 picks in back to back losses to both Pittsburgh and Baltimore. However, Dalton has looked fairly well in the most recent outings and should be ready to attack the Texans defense. Dalton’s go to guy will be rookie sensation A.J Green who leads the team with 832 receiving yards. Green is a NFL superstar in the making and he can definitely be a difference maker for the Bengals offense this Sunday if given the opportunity.
Also, running back Cedric Benson has been consistently solid on the ground this season having compiled 792 rushing yards on the year. Of course things will be difficult against the Texans defense this Sunday, but Benson could still provide the balance necessary to setup some passing attempts down the field. Cincinnati will need to hook up on a few of those plays down the field and keep control of the football if they are to score the victory on Sunday.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Bengals are much better than they played last week and I believe they will have a chip on their shoulder this Sunday. A big effort will be needed, but I believe Houston has legitimate concerns on offense with Yates behind center. I believe those concerns will be brought to light this Sunday and the Bengals big effort results in a rather surprising Cincinnati victory. Take Cincinnati -3.
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