This is two weeks in a row that teams with a similar style end up locking up. Last week produced the most entertaining game the Houston Texans have played in several years. Since the NFL is an entertainment product, they can only hope that this Sunday will produce the same thing. So, beyond all of the platitudes, this is about which team can execute their game plan the best on both sides of the ball.
As per usual, we will use PFF scores to look at the top five guys on each team. There are some familiar names there on both sides. We look at the Texans from week to week and surprisingly there is some movement there. Eventually, it gives you a pretty good idea of where each team’s strength is at.
Cincinnati Bengals Top Five
DE Trey Hendrickson— 89.4
WR Jamarr Chase— 85.2
DT D.J. Reader— 79.0
QB Joe Burrow—- 78.7
WR Tee Higgins— 68.3
There is a familiar name there. Reader is one of the Rosetta Stone’s for the Value of Things. Somewhere along the way, the Texans valued Whitney Mercilus and Zach Cunningham and devalued Reader. Reader is still playing at an All-Pro level while those guys are sitting in the barber shop. This isn’t to demean either of those guys. They were good players when they were at their best, but their value to the team was nowhere close to what Reader’s was.
This is the simple part of the value of things. Every player has value. Some are more valuable than others. This is sometimes dependent on skill and production, but sometimes it is just about how important the position is. Good defensive tackles are more difficult to find than productive linebackers. The Bengals defense is decent largely because Reader is there playing at a high level.
Houston Texans Top Five
LB Blake Cashman— 89.6
WR Nico Collins— 84.4
CB Tavierre Thomas— 81.0
QB C.J. Stroud— 79.0
DE Will Anderson— 79.0
I suppose one could debate about whether the Texans hit on Will Anderson. If you measure it by just sacks then the answer is no. If it measure it by the more sophisticated numbers like pressures and win rate then he has been successful. There can be no doubt about Stroud. If Nick Caserio is to be judged on what he did in this past draft then he could be the executive of the year. Tank Dell is seventh on the Texans in PFF. That’s three rookies figuring prominently and we haven’t even gotten into any of the others.
What will the Bengals offense do to the Texans defense?
Joe Burrow’s score looks ordinary, but he has been himself the past four weeks. He has been undefeated with ten TD passes and only two interceptions. That includes wins against the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills. Those are some pretty good defenses he ran through. So, his 90.6 quarterback rating looks ordinary, but that is a function of those first four games. He has been playing like the Burrow of old the last month. Their 607 rushing yards inspires no confidence and the 3.6 yards per carry average is one of the worst in the NFL. Somehow the Texans are worse than that, but that’s just an aside. These two teams are throwing it around the yard on Sunday.
What will the Bengals defense do to the Texans offense?
Interestingly enough, they are allowing more passing yards than they have had themselves. They are also allowing five yards per carry on the ground. What is keeping them afloat is turnovers. Those same quarterbacks have ten touchdown passes and eleven interceptions. They have created a total of 15 turnovers on the season. That makes them one of the NFL leaders so far. Their hope is to create a key turnover or two and put the Texans behind the eight ball.
What will the Texans offense do to the Bengals defense?
I was given some grief in the comments on my other VOT this week. It was a general misunderstanding of tone. I want the Texans to succeed. Life is more fun when they are playing good football. That means passing the ball. We can look at what other defenses can do or can’t do and it really doesn’t matter. This is not a running football team right now. I have compared them to teams like the Chiefs. The Chiefs haven’t run the ball consistently in years. They still find ways to move the football. Granted, having Patrick Mahomes helps a lot, but Stroud is showing he is one of those guys. Let’s use his talents and go.
What will the Texans defense do to the Bengals offense?
You cannot cover all of their receivers for the entire game. You will leave some of them one on one and that is a recipe for failure. This isn’t a shot on DeMeco Ryans or the Texans defense. Burrow carved up the 49ers defense. The blueprint for both of these defenses is the same. You find a way to get off the field without surrendering points. Maybe that’s a key turnover on a sack or pressure. Maybe it’s a punt. The team that gets off the field on defense more often wins the game. It may not happen often. Just one more time than your opponent is all you need.