Football is a desperate game, played by desperate men, and right now the Bengals are as desperate as any team in the league. Following an improbable 6-2 start for a team many pundits said would be the worst in the league (for the record Vegas had their over/under win total at 4 ½ in the preseason) the Bengals have dropped three of the last four, and are in survival mode for a coveted wild-card playoff spot.
Better competition, injuries in the secondary, and a few bad breaks are the key contributors in their recent decline. Andy Dalton is coming off his worst performance of the season where he completed just 17 of 32 passes with 0 TD, 2 INT, for a paltry 40.8 quarterback rating. Those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt when you consider he was on the road against a surging Pittsburgh Steelers team, with a knack for humiliating opposing quarterbacks not named Tom Brady.
The Bengals' miserable 1-5 record (23rd
) in the quality standings category makes it hard to take the Bengals as a legitimate playoff threat. Nevertheless they’re still in the hunt and a win this Sunday would be a huge boost for them.
However it won’t get any easier for the Red Rifle this week as he’ll be facing a Texans' defense that is No. 1 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 1 in Defensive Real Passing YPA, No. 1 in Defensive Real QB Rating and No. 3 on the Defensive Hog Index and No.2 in Scoring Defense at 15.8ppg.
Meanwhile the Texans are coming off a monumental victory at home against a Falcons' team that was in need of a big victory. T.J. Yates had a solid outing against an aggressive Atlanta defense, going 12 of 25 passes, for 188 yards, 1 touchdown. However, he was bailed out of an egregious pick-6 in his own territory by Dunta Robinson’s costly holding penalty. Following that reversal of fortune he lead the team on an epic 19-play, 10:45 minute drive that ultimately proved to be the difference in the game. The Texans were also aided by relatively poor play from Matt Ryan, more dropped balls by Roddy White (he leads the league with 12) and a end of regulation drop by Julio Jones that could have forced overtime.
Although the Texans have the leagues third-best rushing attack (157.1ypg) behind their two-headed monster rushing attack of Arian Foster and Ben Tate (5.5ypc), don’t expect them to run wild on a Bengals' team that ranks No. 6 on our Defensive Hog Index and No. 3 in defensive rushing yards per attempt.
They'll have to earn it again like last wee'ks impressive 162 yards rushing against an Atlanta defense that ranks No. 3 in the league at 90.7 ypg and No.5 in defensive rushing yards per attempt. Expect the Texans to force the Bengals' defense to prove they can stop it, before opening up the offense to T.J. Yates. Additionally, it will be hard for the Texans to stretch the field without Andre Johnson, so expect Gary Kubiak to use the run to set up some patented play-action roll outs to get his receivers and tight ends into space and give T.J. Yates some easier throws.
On the Bengals' side, look for Cedric Benson to be his typical plodding self en route to a grossly uninteresting yet quasi-effective output. But if the Bengals want to win and right their sinking playoff ship they’re going to have to take shots downfield. Unfortunately for them that won't be an easy task considering the Texans rank No. 1 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 1 in Defensive Real Passing YPA, and No. 1 in Defensive Real QB Rating. Yes the very same team that last year couldn’t stop or cover anything with two legs and opposable thumbs has now morphed into one of the stingiest units in the league; thank you Wade Phillips but curse you for this
There are six Quality Stats that predict winners more than 60 percent of the time: Real QB Rating (60.8%), Passer Rating Differential (60.8%), Offensive Passer Rating (61.9%), Quality Stats Power Rankings (63.1%), Scoreability (63.6%) and the Relativity Index (66.7%). The Texans happen to rank higher than the Bengals in alll of them.
However this should be one of the few times I would hesitate to rely on Real QB Rating and Offensive Passer rating in correlation to a Houston victory. You should take into account that their impressive sample is largely due to Matt Schaub, who is done for the year. Had T.J. Yates been the quarterback of the Texans for the last thirteen weeks one would be hard pressed to believe the numbers would look the same.
So in this particular instance one might want to focus more on other indicators such as Real Passing Yards Per Attempt / Defensive Real Passing Yards Per Attempt (70.8% correlation to victory) and Scoreability/Bendability (84.4% correlation to victory). The Texans are No.1 in DRPYPA, No. 5 in RPYPA, No. 9 in Scoreability, and No.8 in Bendability. Meanwhile the Bengals are No.11 in DRPYPA, No. 18 in RPYPA, No. 10 in Scoreability, and No.22 in Bendability.
In summation all the ColdHardFootballFacts.com predictors and correlations to victory point to the Texans, but it’s tough to take a rookie 5th
round quarterback on the road against a formidable Cincinnati defense in playoff desperation mode. Look for this game to be close and ultimately decided by a single splash play or catastrophic mistake by either rookie quarterback. Overwhelming numbers like these rarely lie so I like the Texans in a nail biter. As Gary Kubiak exclaimed in the locker room following last weeks victory over Atlanta “Three weeks, three different quarterbacks, same freaking team!”.