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Texans-Bengals Preview: Four Things To Watch

A.J. Green is a top receiver and an athletic freak, so just who do the Texans cover him with?

Wild Card Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans
A.J. Green doing A.J. Green things
Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

In a week where there has been a big upheaval on offense, we take on the Cincinnati Bengals with a chance to possibly secure our playoff position (if the Jaguars beat the Titans). We've had some good games against the Bengals recently, notably another T.J. Yates led victory on Monday Night Football last season. The Bengal Killer himself is not Houston’s starting quarterback this time round, so here are four other things to watch instead:

1. Offensive Sync

If you hadn't heard, Tom Savage is starting at quarterback on Saturday night.

I could ramble on for several thousand words about how poor Brock Osweiler was, why rightly or wrongly it took Bill O’Brien this long to bench Osweiler, and how I expect Tom Savage to perform. However, I will refrain from doing so. I've made this thread as much about the other things outside of Brock Osweiler all season long, and I'll continue that this week.

The biggest thing I'll be watching for is the synchronicity of the Texans’ offense. Is everyone on the same page? Can we speed it up and slow it down when we need to?

DeAndre Hopkins turned into his former, non-human self when Savage was under center against the Jaguars, and he will be a crucial part of the offense once again. Can Savage continue to find Hopkins?

We've been missing that flow on offense all year. If we can find it now, we could be in with a shout in January.

2. Brennan Scarlett

Wow. That's all I can say regarding this man on Sunday. Sure, Scarlett didn't show up on the stat sheet, but he played a great game. I was pretty concerned about having him out there with Whitney Mercilus out injured, but he sure went and proved me wrong. To think this was Scarlett’s first game back from injured reserve...he performed well above expectation.

The Bengals are in the top 10 for rushing yards per game this year, so the first priority for the Texans is to stop the run. Scarlett could see a lot of snaps again on Saturday, and his performance opposite Mercilus or Jadeveon Clowney will be interesting to watch. If Scarlett can continue to set the edge and play good fundamental football, we should be able to hold the Bengals’ ground game to small gains.

The undrafted free agent out of Stanford will get another great opportunity to showcase his talent this week. I'm sure he'll make the most of it.

3. Who Can Cover A.J. Green?

If A.J. Green plays this weekend (and it seems as though he will), there are a couple key questions. Firstly, do we leave one man on Green all game or mix it up? Secondly, if we go with one man on him all day, who is it?

As much as I appreciate the stellar job Robert Nelson has done since coming in, watching him line up against T.Y. Hilton was pretty bad. Nelson did a better job against the Jaguars, but it's clear that he is not fully adjusted to NFL play yet. For that reason, I really would not like to see Nelson lined up on A.J. Green at all.

Out of Kareem Jackson, A.J. Bouye and potentially a returning Johnathan Joseph, I'm not really sure who I prefer to cover Green. Joseph may or may not be fully healthy by Saturday night; can we risk an 85% fit corner against one of the best receivers in the league?

Both Kareem and Bouye have been playing well this year. The only problem has come on penalties. A.J. Bouye has been hit with nine penalties this year for being too handsy in coverage, something a receiver with Green's ability could exploit. Be it a DPI call well down field or simply being so good that Bouye is forced to hold on, Green could cause trouble.

In short, I don't really know who I want covering Green. I just know it’s not Nelson or Al-Hajj Shabazz.

4. Wendall Williams

Whether you believe he ran a 4.19 or not, this guy can flat out fly. Whether he can run routes or not is another question.

Early in the fourth quarter against Jacksonville, Tom Savage was lucky to avoid an interception on a pass to Williams; luckily the corner was out of bounds when he caught it. Williams was running a corner route and made his break deeper down the field than Savage was expecting. Savage put the ball well behind Williams, and it allowed the corner to make a play on the ball.

Now, we can't be certain who was in the wrong there. If I were to take a guess between the QB that spent three years in the system and the rookie receiver who ran barely any routes in college, I know who I’d think was wrong.

We also used Williams in a jet sweep early on, and he ran a deep route for Savage's first big completion. It will be interesting to see if we continue to use Williams on only those types of plays, or whether we throw him in there and hope he can to start to run some routes.

I hope we run some more trick plays with Wendall. If nothing else, it makes things interesting, and with his speed, it just might work.

That's it for this week. What are you looking for against the Bengals? Give your thoughts below.