In order to get a grasp on this primetime matchup, we’ve enlisted the help of those who know these teams the best. Expert NFL bloggers Mickey Mentzer of Bengals blog Cincy Jungle and Stephanie Stradley of Houston’s Ultimate Texans blog strap on the pads and debate which team will not only win, but cover the spread Monday night.
WHY HOUSTON WILL COVER
Stephanie Stradley writes for the Ultimate Texans blog at the Houston Chronicle online. You can follow her on Twitter @StephStradley and read her personal blog at Stradleylaw.com.
Time to reboot
I get the big number against Houston: Getting thumped on the road by both Atlanta and Miami. Near the bottom of the league rankings in offense, defense and special teams. Too many poor performances against good teams on prime time.
That said, Houston is treating the bye week as a self-scouting reboot, new season. The team as a whole is healthier than it has been all season, particularly the offensive line.
I’m not expecting miracle changes from Houston, but they play hard and are still playing for something as as the AFC South is wide open.
Watt vs. Dalton
J.J. Watt is having a magnificent season individually. One of the differences between the Texans last year and this year is just turnover fortune.
Last year, good individual plays resulted in turnovers. This year, often inches away from game changing plays, or plays get hurt by unrelated defensive penalties.
Watt has had some very good games against Andy Dalton in previous seasons, and sometimes a dominant player just has a quarterback’s number.
The issues that the Texans have had on defense are mostly scheme/execution in-season fixable ones.
If the Texans offense and special teams just play average and the defense plays to their abilities, the Texans can certainly make this a game.
I wouldn’t expect the Texans to win this game straight-up, but it wouldn’t be a world-coming-to-an-end surprise either.
WHY CINCINNATI WILL COVER
Mickey Mentzer (@WhoDeyFans) writes for Cincy Jungle. You can follow them on Facebook and on Twitter @CincyJungle.
Running the football
The Bengals have one of the most balanced offenses in the NFL. Part of that comes from the duo of running backs Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. While fans may wonder who is the real starter, the two backs compliment each other well on the field.
The Texans come into the game boasting the 6th worst rushing defense in the NFL. Cincinnati will attack Houston up the middle with their running game to open up the rest of their offense.
The aerial attack
Once Cincinnati establishes the run game, Houston will be forced to place more defenders closer to the line to stop the run. This opens up single coverage for A.J. Green and Marvin Jones. Both receivers can create separation and Andy Dalton has been money this season in the pocket.
If Houston doubles one of these guys, Tyler Eifert and his 9 touchdowns in 8 games will exploit whatever poor linebacker is forced to cover him. Really, this passing attack can’t be stopped.
Carlos Dunlap leads a Cincinnati defensive line that has been able to create consistent pressure with just the front four lineman. Geno Atkins in the middle constantly draws double coverage and Michael Johnson along with Dunlap become a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.
Rarely this season has an opposing quarterback been comfortable in the pocket and deep plays are rushed as the Bengals front is very disruptive.
Join the debate. Who covers Monday night: Texans or Broncos?