(Updated: UPDATES with Cushing suspension in EXTRA POINTS)
The Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals were among a glut of teams who put forth feeble offensive performances in their respective season openers. Coming off lopsided losses — each at home — to division opponents, the Bengals and Texans have a short week to solve their offensive woes when they square off in Cincinnati on Thursday night.
Awful quarterback performances low-lighted the Week 1 efforts for each team and there could be a change under center for Houston, which benched starter Tom Savage at halftime in favor of rookie first-round pick Deshaun Watson. “We’re going to do what’s best for the team,” said Texans coach Bill O’Brien of the potential quarterback controversy after dealing with the failed Brock Osweiler fiasco last year. “We always try to do what’s best for the team, and try to go from there.” Cincinnati was shut out (20-0 by Baltimore) at home for the first time since 2001 as quarterback Andy Dalton matched a career worst with four interceptions and committed five turnovers. “I have to put this one behind us,” acknowledged Dalton. “I know the type of player that I am and I can be. I can’t let this affect the next one.”
TV: 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network. LINE: Bengals -5. O/U: 38
ABOUT THE TEXANS (0-1): Reports out of Houston indicate that Watson, who guided Clemson to the national championship in January, will be under center for Thursday’s matchup if he is not hindered by an ankle injury during Tuesday’s practice. Watson was 12 of 23 for 102 yards with one touchdown and one interception, but he and Savage absorbed a combined 10 sacks behind a line that is still missing left tackle Duane Brown (contract holdout) and will be without guard Jeff Allen. Perhaps an even bigger issue facing the Texans is a lengthy injury list that features five players in the NFL’s concussion protocol, including the team’s top three tight ends. Despite the return of start defensive end J.J. Watt, limited to three games last season due to back surgery, Houston allowed 155 yards rushing in the 29-7 loss to Jacksonville.
ABOUT THE BENGALS (0-1): Lost in the abysmal performance by Dalton, who tossed three of his interceptions in the first half, was the sturdy play of Cincinnati’s defense, which surrendered a total of 268 yards (157 rushing) to the Ravens. Dalton, who is already halfway to last season’s interception total of eight, compiled a wretched 28.4 passer rating after completing 16 of 31 for 170 yards, with star wideout A.J. Green leading the way with five catches for 74 yards. The Bengals need to sort out their running game — Giovani Bernard, less than 10 months removed from knee surgery, rushed for 40 yards on seven carries but highly touted rookie Joe Mixon managed only nine yards on eight rushes. Rookie wideout John Ross, the ninth overall pick who was clocked in 4.22 in the 40 at the NFL combine, is expected to make his NFL debut.
1. Houston has won seven of the past eight meetings (playoffs included) and held Cincinnati to 16 points the past two seasons.
2. Green has 22 receptions in three career matchups against the Texans.
3. Texans LB Brian Cushing, already ruled out with a concussion, was suspended 10 games Thursday for his second violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
PREDICTION: Bengals 16, Texans 13