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Three And Out: Useless Predictions For Texans-Bengals

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With a chance to truly climb into the AFC playoff picture, will the Houston Texans defeat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday? One Texans fan makes his predictions for the game.

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Production from a Houston Texans tight end?  I feel like we're looking at a unicorn.
Production from a Houston Texans tight end? I feel like we're looking at a unicorn.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon a time (scholars estimate it was last week), I predicted that your Houston Texans would lose to the Cleveland Browns. I based that prediction in large part on the likely absence of Arian Foster and Ryan Mallett making his first NFL start on the road.

The Texans won 23-7.

Alfred Blue was astoundingly effective in relief of Arian Foster.

While not perfect, Ryan Mallett played very well in his first start, showing good command of the offense and minimizing his mistakes. The Texans looked like a completely different team with him under center in place of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

I was wrong. Outrageously wrong, even. I underestimated Ryan Mallett. I underestimated Alfred Blue. I understimated the Texans. And perhaps I overestimated the Browns.

Will I do it again? Will my blood oath of allegiance to all things Katy, Texas result in me blindly picking Andy Dalton to prevail? There's only one way to find out. It's prediction time for Texans-Bengals.

1. Despite his "day-to-day" status, I don't expect Arian Foster to suit up on Sunday. He practiced Wednesday, sat out yesterday, and as I write this, I have no idea if he practiced today (Friday). I imagine Foster will be inactive against the Bengals, which means it's going to be Alfred Blue's show for the second week in a row. I don't think you'll see 36 carries from Blue again, but I do think you'll see him have north of 22 carries. Mark Blue down for 24 carries, 102 yards, and 1 TD.

2. In his second NFL start and his first start at home, Ryan Mallett will open things up a bit more than what we saw against the Browns. Personally, I'd love to see Bill O'Brien send Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins deep on the first play from scrimmage; if Mallett was to connect with one of those guys for a long touchdown, the roof would blow off NRG Stadium (which, naturally, would be the only way the roof would ever be opened).

I saw much more than I thought I would from Mallett last week. I'm still not convinced he's the long-term answer at QB; I need to see several more games before I'm ready to jump off that ledge. Nevertheless, I'm exponentially more optimistic about the possibility of the Texans having a legitimate NFL starting quarterback on their current roster than I was a week ago. Mallett's line against the Bengals on Sunday? 22-33 for 227 yards, 2 TDs, and 2 INTs.

3. J.J. Watt's ongoing quest to be the sole subject of Andy Dalton's night terrors aside, the key match-up on Sunday will be Johnathan Joseph versus A.J. Green. Green is going to find the end zone, likely thanks to a safety's failure to provide help over the top. J-Jo simply has to minimize the number of deep plays surrendered against one of the best wide receiver in the NFL. I think he'll do a decent job of achieving that goal, as Green will be "held" to five catches for 88 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.

PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: I can't explain this feeling in my gut. It could well be the shrimp scampi. But I believe the Texans beat the Bengals. Cincinnati has more film of Mallett than the Browns did in that they have something to watch, but is a single game really enough to render an opinion on a QB's tendencies? Especially when said QB gets rid of the ball so quickly? Isn't it possible that O'Brien kept a card or two up his sleeve last week?

Ryan Mallett moves to 2-0, the Texans move to 6-5, and playoff talk gets considerably louder next week. Texans 24, Bengals 21.

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