breaking news

Shooter in custody, one confirmed fatality, multiple wounded, governor says | Kentucky school shooting:

6 things to watch for in Bengals-Texans game


Reeling from a 20-0 blanking by Baltimore in the season opener, the Cincinnati Bengals will try to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2008 and just the third of the Marvin Lewis era when they play host to the Houston Texans on Thursday Night Football.

The Texans will be trying to avoid going 0-2 for the second time in three years, although they rallied from that slow start in 2015 to make the playoffs.

Here are six things to watch for in the game:

Woe line

After giving up five sacks to Baltimore in the opener, the Bengals offensive line has to contend with a Texans defense that allowed the fewest yards in the NFL last year and ranked No. 2 in pass defense due to the amount of pressure it puts on the quarterback.

A Bengals offensive line already in flux lost starting right guard Trey Hopkins to a knee injury. T.J. Johnson, who began training camp as the third stringer, will get the start.

›› Prediction for Bengals-Texans and all Week 2 NFL games

Offensive line coach Paul Alexander said the message to the group after Sunday’s disappointing debut was simple:

“It’s easy in practice,” he said. “You go out there, there’s no stress, there’s no nerves going on, but to do it out there on the stage requires experience and it requires having backbone. Because nine out of 10 times, they did it right. But nine out of 10’s not good enough.”

All six of the linemen – Johnson played the second half – took turns getting beat against the Ravens, and all of them will have to contend with Houston Pro Bowl defensive end J.J. Watt at some point, not to mention linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus.

›› Eagles sign player off Bengals practice squad

“We have a pretty clear strategy of what we need to do against (Watt), and I don’t really want to share that,” Alexander said. “The biggest thing is don’t go for all the charades, all the antics that kind of makes him appear even greater than he is. Stick to your knitting do what you do.

“(Watt’s) the best defensive player in the league,” Alexander added. “The only defensive player who you might think is as good as him is Clowney. There you go.”

Rifle revival

Regardless of how much blame the offensive line deserves for quarterback Andy Dalton’s poor showing against Baltimore, the poor passing numbers belong to him. Dalton tied his career high with four interceptions, and his 28.4 passer rating was the second lowest of his career.

The Bengals are hoping Dalton responds the way he did the week after his infamous 2.0 rating against Cleveland in 2014. Dalton came back the next week and completed 16 of 22 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns for a 143.9 rating in a 27-10 win at New Orleans.

›› Today in Bengals history: Sept. 14

In fact, Dalton has directed the team to wins the week after each of the five lowest passer ratings of his career.

“You have to move on.” Dalton said. “That’s the position of quarterback — you’ve got to worry about the next play regardless what happens. Same thing. We had a down game, I had a down game. I’ve just got to go back and play like I know I can play.”

Watching Watson

Despite battling an ankle injury, Houston rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is expected to make his NFL starting debut after replacing Tom Savage in the second half of the team’s 29-7 home loss to Jacksonville on Sunday.

The No. 12 overall pick in the draft, Watson was 12 of 23 for 102 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Follow Jay Morrison on Twitter

Under Marvin Lewis, the Bengals are 3-3 against quarterbacks making their NFL starting debuts. The last one to beat them was, ironically, Savage in Week 16 last year. The others were St. Louis’ Shaun Hill in 2007 and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco in 2008. The Bengals beat St. Louis’ Brock Berlin in 2007, Carolina’s Jimmy Clausen in 2010 and Cleveland’s Johnny Manziel in 2014.

The Bengals are 16-11 against rookie quarterbacks under Lewis.

Houston hurting

Eleven Texans were on the team’s initial injury list this week, including all three tight ends with concussions. Houston put starter C.J. Fiedorowicz on Injured Reserve on Tuesday and ruled out backups Stephen Anderson and Ryan Griffin on Wednesday, forcing the team to promote rookie Evan Baylis from the practice squad.

Starting linebacker Brian Cushing, the team’s career leader in tackles, also is out, along with starting right guard Jeff Allen. Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown is holding out.

Wide receivers Will Fuller and Bruce Ellington and running back Alfred Blue also are out with injuries.

Primetime problems

If there was one silver lining coming out of the abysmal performance in the opener, it’s that none of the Bengals had to answer to questions this week about their problems in primetime.

While the team has won at least one primetime game each of the last five seasons, the overall record remains poor.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Like our Cincinnati Bengals News Now Facebook page

The Bengals have lost 11 of its last 14 games under the lights and are 5-13 (.278) since the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green era began in 2011.

Cincinnati is 9-22 (.290) under Lewis and 21-48 (.304) all time.

Back-to-back blankings

Shutouts have been a rare occurrence for the Bengals offense, especially at home. But back-to-back blankings are approaching a Haley’s Comet level of infrequency.

It’s something that has happened only once in the franchise’s previous 49 seasons. After losing the 2000 season opener 24-7 to Cleveland, the Bengals dropped a 13-0 decision at Jacksonville and got drubbed at Baltimore 37-0.

Head coach Bruce Coslet quit the next day.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Hall of Fame ballot's an annual conundrum for electors
Hall of Fame ballot's an annual conundrum for electors

When looking at this year's Hall of Fame ballot, three names that sprung to mind were Jonah Keri, Dan Le Batard and Ryan Thibodaux. None of them is actually on the ballot as they weren't players. But all three factored into the voting process in their own way, changing the way Hall of Fame voting is conducted in the modern era.  My Hall of Fame...
Jelena Dokic recounts her rise with an abusive father

In the soaring but turbulent career of the tennis star Jelena Dokic, any highs quickly fell victim to a deeper low. “A lot of my good memories — or what should have been good memories,” Dokic said in an interview, “have something dark behind them.” Dokic, whose Serbian family fled war-ravaged Yugoslavia for Australia,...
How good is Trae Young? In a bad week, he averaged 34 points
How good is Trae Young? In a bad week, he averaged 34 points

Trae Young matched a Big 12 record with 48 points against Oklahoma State on Saturday, and crazy as it sounds, he's found himself in a bit of a slump. That's how high the Oklahoma freshman guard has set the bar this season. The Sooners play host to Kansas on Tuesday in a delicious Big 12 best player vs. best team showdown, and Young will look to improve...
For Puerto Ricans, life after hurricane remains far from normal, but baseball is back
For Puerto Ricans, life after hurricane remains far from normal, but baseball is back

By first pitch, the parking lot outside Evaristo "Varo" Roldán Stadium was jammed. Inside, the Criollos de Caguas, the defending Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League and Caribbean Series champions, were seeking their third straight win against the Gigantes de Carolina. It was a Monday afternoon earlier this month, but it didn't...
Nick Foles goes from backup to championship game hero
Nick Foles goes from backup to championship game hero

Nick Foles stood tall in the pocket, ignored the pressure and made one big throw after another. On the biggest stage of his life, Foles silenced the critics who thought the Eagles couldn't get to the Super Bowl without MVP candidate Carson Wentz. Foles threw for 352 and three touchdowns to lead Philadelphia to a convincing 38-7 victory over the Minnesota...
More Stories