Houston Texans Prevail Against Struggling Bengals
Written by Greg Smith – 2011-12 NFL Prediction Record (13-6)
As my father was fond of saying “it takes a big man to cry but it takes a bigger man to make that big man cry…” Last weekend I advised betting against the Houston Texans as they faced the visiting Atlanta Falcons and rookie QB TJ Yates was the bigger man to make me cry. Did TJ Yates have an impeccable mistake-free game in his first NFL start? Of course not, that would be unreasonable to expect, but what Yates did do was exude calm and belief in himself (and his teammates). Yates looked comfortable even after being sacked, having Andre Johnson drop and fifty yard pass and watching the Atlanta Falcons claw back to even the score at 10-10. Texans head coach Gary Kubiak demonstrated great belief in Yates as the Texans faced 4th and 1 on the Falcons 9 yard line and opted to go for the clinching touchdown over an easy field-goal. Overall, Yates threw for 188 yards and 1 TD, posting an 86.8 passer rating and (with the help of his teammates) outplayed veteran (and largely successful) QB counterpart Matt Ryan. As Atlanta head coach Mike Smith described after the game, “that’s by far, here of late, the best team that we’ve played.” Looking more in detail at the Texans overall offense, despite being on their 3rd QB, they rank 10th in total yards per game, 17th in passing yards, 3rd in rushing yards and 5th in total points scored per game. On the defensive side, the Texans currently rank 2nd in total yards allowed per game, 4th in passing yards allowed, 4th in rushing yards allowed and 2nd in total points allowed per game. Regarding injuries, the Texans are looking reasonably healthy with fullback Lawrence Vickers, tight end Garrett Graham, linebacker Brian Cushing and wide receiver Andre Johnson the players listed as questionable for the weekend match. The Texans list an impressive 9-3 record and are 4-2 against the spread as visitors.
Looking at the opposite side of the field, the once high-flying Bengals have recently fallen on hard times (it doesn’t help when you come out of arguably the toughest division in the NFL). Last Sunday they faced AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers and were thoroughly dismantled, losing 35-7. The Bengals had flashes of promise against the Steelers but they looked very shaky at times and were utterly overpowered for much of the game. There are two important points that I take from the Bengals loss to the Steelers in their last game. First, the Bengals basically seemed to crumple against a defensive-minded, very strategic Pittsburgh team. The Steelers are one of the NFL teams that pride themselves on defence and it has been their defence that has allowed them to continue their success this season even as their offence loses a step. Speaking specifically to Bengals QB Andy Dalton, in his three games versus the defensive powerhouses of Pittsburgh and Baltimore he stands at a 50.5 % pass completion, throwing 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. If we put the Houston Texans defence in the company of the Steelers and Ravens (and the stats say we should) then we can likely expect Dalton to face significant challenges this weekend. The second important point from the Steelers game would be the amount of injuries the Bengals sustained. The Bengals have listed: QB Andy Dalton (although he most certainly will play), guard Clint Boling, tight end Don Lee, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, defensive tackle Pat Sims, cornerback Nate Clements, tackle Andre Smith, linebacker Ray Maualuga, linebacker Dontay Moch and wide receiver Ryan Whalen. The Bengals offensive stats currently come in well below the Texans as the stand 18th in total yards gained per game, 20th in rushing yards and 19th in points scored per game. As well, although still very good the Bengals defence ranks below the Texans as they are 6th in total yards allowed per game, 10th in passing yards, 6th in rushing yards allowed and 14th in total points allowed per game. The latest Bengals loss to the Steelers also marks the 4th straight game that Cincinnati has turned the ball over two times or more, putting them at -1 in the turnover differential category for the year. The Bengals have also not forced more than 1 turnover in a game since October 30 against the Seattle Seahawks.
The Houston Texans are truly playing as a team that believes they can overcome any challenge and their rookie QB took a reasonably convincing step in showing he can be a positive part of the team. The Texans coach Gary Kubiak motivated his players against the Atlanta Falcons by playing up their underdog role and I believe the same will be the case as they face the Bengals.
Prediction: Take the Houston Texans +3 against the Cincinnati Bengals (5Dimes.com)