Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 16: Bengals-Texans — Four Things To Watch For

Could we be seeing the last of J.J. Watt in a Texans uniform these next two games?
Could we be seeing the last of J.J. Watt in a Texans uniform these next two games? Photo by Eric Sauseda
Three weeks ago, the Houston Texans lost at home to the Indianapolis Colts, when a Nick Martin snap went awry in the final minute of the game with the team driving for a go ahead score. After the game, Deshaun Watson sat on the bench for several minutes, towel over his head, ostensibly sobbing. J.J. Watt was some combination of incredulous and sad.

Fast forward two weeks later in Indianapolis, against that same Colts team, and the Texans lose in almost identical fashion, with Keke Coutee the culprit this time around, fumbling into the Colts end zone as he was reaching for the tying touchdown with under a minute to go in the game. This time, though, Watson and Watt were not nearly as outwardly despondent. Oh, they were not happy, by any means, but it was very clear that the two of them were at the final phase of the Kubler-Ross five stages of dealing with grief — acceptance.

Watson and Watt know that, at this point, 2020 is what it is, and the two of them (and a handful of other Texans that matter) await the next head coach and GM of this team. It is with that backdrop that the Texans welcome the 2-11-1 Cincinnati Bengals to town — two teams playing out the string, looking forward to brighter days.

Without Joe Burrow (season ending knee injury) under center, there's not much to watch from the Bengals' side of things, so here are four things to watch for, all Texans-related:

4. David Johnson's semi-rebirth

Let me preface this take by saying that David Johnson seems like a nice person and a swell guy. His anti-bullying PSA's on Texans Radio make me want to go find bullies and murder them with my bare hands. Hell, he even had his most productive game as a Texan this past Sunday, with 133 total yards, including 11 catches for 106 yards. And therein lies the problem. He is a running back, and his best game as a Texan included 8 carries for just 27 yards. Johnson was brought in because he was supposed to be "an excellent three down back," Bill O'Brien's exact words. Turns out he is none of those things — not excellent, not a three down player, and he's barely a running back, at this point. The hope here is that there are two games left in his Texans career, and after that, we can all cordially say goodbye, and send him on his way. I don't need him tempting a new GM into trying to keep him around for another year.

3. Young players putting down some film
Now, if the Texans' offensive coaches want to trot out some more Scottie Phillips this Sunday and next Sunday, I am here for that! He only had three offensive touches against the Colts on Sunday, but it was quite evident that the undrafted rookie out of Ole Miss had some more wiggle and juice than David Johnson. (To be fair, there are oak trees with more wiggle and juice than David Johnson.) Second year tight end Kahale Warring had a couple catches, including a nice 23-yard catch downfield. I'm up for seeing some more Chad Hansen, as he auctions for a bigger role with Deshaun Watson in 2021. Let's see some more of the unknown this weekend!

2. J.J. Watt's finish
Other than the identity of the next head coach and general manager for the Texans, the next biggest storyline of the 2021 offseason will be "What happens with J.J. Watt?" I am hopeful that the favorite on the board is (a) Cal McNair getting these hires right, and then subsequently (b) Watt wanting to stick around for the final year of his deal. He is not the J.J. Watt of four years ago, but he is still a very effective player. That said, he is on pace for his lowest full season totals for sacks, tackles, and QB hits since his rookie year in 2011. Will he leave enough of an imprint in this final two games to make his $17.5 million (non-guaranteed) salary next season a non-talking point?

1. Deshaun Watson. Because, ALWAYS Deshaun Watson.
When you're 4-10, and there's only two more of these, ignore the record, and revel in the fact that we get to watch Deshaun Watson do work. Know that better days lie ahead.

SPREAD: Texans -8.5
PREDICTION: Texans 27, Bengals 17

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast