Houston Texans (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS)
NFL Week 2
Date/Time: Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 8:30PM EST
Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
TV: NFL Network
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: HOU +3.5/CIN -3.5
Over/Under Total: 38.5
On Thursday Night Football in AFC week two action, the Houston Texans come to Paul Brown Stadium to take on the Cincinnati Bengals. Look for both teams to be eager for atonement after awful week one performances. When starting the season like that, its important to right the ship before things get too out of hand. Houston was dominated at home in a 29-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game where not a lot went their way. The Bengals didnt have it much better, also embarrassed at home in a 20-0 shutout loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Who can get it turned around on the short week in Cincinnati?
Going back to last season, there seems to be an indefinable disconnect on the Bengals offense. They have an offense that looks like it should be better than it is. With rookie Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, and Jeremy Hill, they have a diverse backfield with guys who can catch balls, as well. There arent many better receivers than AJ Green and Tyler Eifert has shown the talent that would make him one of the better pass catching tight ends in the league. So how does an offense like that get shut out at home?
One thing that doesnt help is a Bengals offensive line that looks to have taken a step backwards. They werent very good in opening holes or in protecting Andy Dalton. Mistakes also hurt and there were plenty of them on Sunday. Dalton coughed up a fumble and threw four picks. No one on the offense was able to shine. Rookie Mixon really struggled finding room to run. Green had a decent day, while everyone else was relatively silent. A team can have bad games, but in a crossroads type of season for the Bengals, to open the season like this has to be upsetting.
Losing the field position battle so badly and with an offense that was constantly undermining the overall team effort, perhaps some kudos should be extended to the Bengals defense for keeping the Ravens held to only 20 points. Then again, the Baltimore offense wasnt really pushing the envelope, as they were working Flacco back slowly after surgery. They held Flacco to just 121 yards, while the run-game averaged less than 4 yards per attempt. Looking back at whatever the Bengals have accomplished in the past decade, a lot of it comes down to this side of the ball. It looks like theyre going to have to be really good if the Bengals are to be a factor this season. One good thing is the return of Adam Jones from suspension this week. They still have to wait for Vontaze Burfict, who will have to sit out two more games with a suspension.
Sunday seemed to set up for perhaps an inspirational game for the Texans, but what transpired couldnt be further from that. Jacksonville certainly looks to be an improved team, especially on defense. But to get your butts handed to you at home by a team that won 3 games last season is a bitter pill to swallow. The two-time defending AFC South champs have thrived before in the face of not getting good quarterback play. But with the inexperienced duo of Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson, they might not be able to overcome it this season.
The Texans offense put up a tad over 200 yards and turned the ball over 4 times. A fumble was returned 53 yards for a TD. The offense has always been a roadblock to victory and Houston actually won the division last season with a negative point-differential. Jacksonville ran over the Houston offensive line all afternoon, heightening the need to get LT Duane Brown signed and in pads. They couldnt open up holes for Lamar Miler to make a difference and both Savage and Watson were running for their lives at timesnot ideal for green quarterbacks trying to get acclimated.
Making it worse for Houston is that both tight ends were taken out of the game with concussions, with CJ Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught the teams only score on a connection with Watson. That was the only good moment for this offense the entire game. Even in optimal conditions, they were an offense that just hangs in there and allows their defense to shine, perhaps with a clutch late score to get the win. With this offense, its not clear how they can be that kind of team again. But lets keep in mind, a lot of good sports teams started off horribly and that goes for both teams in this game. Taking week one results to heart and etching thoughts in concrete could set us off-course, so lets temper the negativity a bit.
Houstons defense wasnt able to make much of an imprint on the game. They did hold Jacksonville to 125 passing yards and though Leonard Fournette ran for 100 yards in his first NFL game, they were otherwise decent against the run. Brian Cushing also seemed to suffer a concussion, but having JJ Watt in there really helps. When offenses run away from him, however, the other pieces of this defense need to respond. And they usually do. Again, with the Jacksonville defense so thoroughly dominating the Texans offense, the defense was facing an uphill battle. A lot of offensive and special teams snafus led to those points and with better play on offense, the defense should respond in kind.
We again want to remind ourselves not to base the totality of our analysis on week one results. With how bad Houston looked, its understandable why people would avoid them in droves this week. But their run-heavy approach and reliance on defense might be good matchup variable against a Cincy team that is struggling in the light of their own personnel issues and injuries. After having the roof cave in on them the week before, Houston will peck and poke and keep the game close en route to a cover.
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