Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 10: Texans vs Bengals — Four Things to Watch For

A win on Sunday would be the biggest of  DeMeco Ryans' young head coaching career.
A win on Sunday would be the biggest of DeMeco Ryans' young head coaching career. Photo by Eric Sauseda
If there is a team outside the AFC South against whom the Houston Texans have the most memorable moments in franchise history, it's probably the Cincinnati Bengals. In a strange circle of life, this pattern began in Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans' final season as a Texans player in 2011, in which the Texans clinched the their first division in a game against the Bengals in the regular season, and then won their first ever playoff game against the Bengals in the post season.

The Texans would go on to beat the Bengals in the playoffs again in 2012, defeat an 8-0 Bengals team on Monday Night Football in 2015, clinch a playoff spot again versus the Bengals in 2016, and defeat them in Deshaun Watson's first career start in 2017. For two teams that have not accomplished a ton collectively through their respective histories, that's a lot of connection.

If the Texans are able to pull off a victory this coming Sunday in Cincinnati, I'm not sure where it falls on the broad  scale of significance compared to the above listed milestones, but for the 2023 season, it would be massive. So let's get you ready! Here are four things to watch for on Sunday:

4. The injury report
How banged up are the Texans after that win over Tampa Bay last week? Bad enough to where it got a headline and full article on CBS Sports' website. The Texans had 23 players listed on their Wednesday injury report, and here's what that looks like:
Now, the good news is that some of the DNP players ended up back at practice later in the week, players like Will Anderson and Blake Cashman. Also, Derek Stingley, Jr. appears to be close to returning from his hamstring injury. However, the apparent loss of Jimmie Ward at safety, as well as kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn could prove costly in this game.

3. Opposing tight ends
The Bengals have one of the least productive tight end groups in the league. However, they did have 10 catches for over 100 yards against the Bills last week, and the Texans have made virtually every opposing tight end group this year look like a room full of Gronk clones. Currently, the Texans are 31st in passer rating allowed against tight ends (118.0). Last week, they made Buccaneers tight end Cade Otten look like a future Hall of Famer, as he had season highs with six catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns.

2. Texans run game, maybe this week?
There is no getting around it — the Houston Texans are an abysmal team at running the football. It's been this way for several years now, but this season, the run game looks even less capable than the run game former OC Pep Hamilton was trotting out there last season. Hell, last season, at least Dameon Pierce was fun to watch! I hate even doing the whole "Is this the week the Texans' running game breaks out?" thing, but given the stoutness of the Bengals' secondary, and the fact the Bengals do give up 5.0 yards per carry, 31st in the NFL, maybe it's worth asking.

1. C.J. Stroud, hero ball
Nah, who am I kidding? The running game will be terrible, as usual, and the Texans' offense will need to rely on whatever magic C.J. Stroud brings to town in that right arm of his. If there's one thing we learned last week about Stroud, the other team has to play a full 60 minutes to put him down. Right now, the Texans' pass catchers are relatively healthy, although Nico Collins was on the injury report this week, and if the offensive line can keep Trey Hendrickson and the Bengals front seven off of Stroud, the Texans' offense should be able to keep the team close. I'm looking for another shootout.

SPREAD: Texans +6.5
PREDICTION: Bengals 30, Texans 27

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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 the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast