Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals (-11, 47 o/u)
The still undefeated Cincinnati Bengals (8-0, 4-0 Home) are double-digit favorites for the second week in a row as they get set to host the Houston Texans (3-5, 1-3 Away) on Monday Night Football (8:30 PM Eastern).
The Bengals moved to 8-0 on the year by stomping the Browns, 31-10, last Thursday, covering as 13-point favorites. Quarterback Andy Dalton continued his MVP-caliber season, completing 21 of 27 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns. But the star of the game was tight end Tyler Eifert, who was on the receiving end of all three TD passes and has emerged as one of the best red zone weapons in the NFL.
“I think it just come with reps. For him, a guy that’s got a great feel for the windows and knowing when to go up and make catches. I think it takes a little bit of time to get used to each other but when you’ve got a guy like that who’s doing it right all the time and has such a good feel for the game, it makes it easier”, Dalton said about Eifert in a press conference this week.
Shutting down Eifert doesn’t mean you’re going to keep the Bengals off the board. Cincy has one of the deepest rosters in the league and can move the ball through the air (270.8 yards per game) and on the ground (120.4 yards per game). The balanced attack has them sitting third in the NFL in points per game (28.6). The balance continues when you look to the other side of the ball, with the defense sitting fourth in the league in scoring (17.4).
That’s bad news for a Texans team that sits bottom-third in points scored (21.4 per game). That said, hope springs eternal in Houston thanks to playing in the dreadful AFC South. At just 3-5 on the year, the Texans are tied with the Colts for top spot in the division. With the recent news that Indy QB Andrew Luck will be sidelined for up to six weeks, the division title – and the playoff spot that comes with it – appear ripe for the plucking.
The Texans picked up their third win of the season last time out, dominating the Marcus Mariota-less Titans, 20-6, in Week 8. A Week 9 bye followed, giving coach Bill O’Brien extra time to prepare, and now the team is feeling a might frisky heading into their Primetime showdown.
“There’s not a whole lot of people that are going to give you a whole lot of a chance going up against an 8-0 team,” defensive end J.J. Watt told the Associated Press. “That’s fine. It’s our job to go out here every single day and find a way. I like that opportunity.”
If the Texans are going to pull off a shocker, they’ll need a big day from Watt and the rest of the pass rush. Dalton has been immaculate when he has time to throw, but looked a lot worse in Week 8 when the Steelers were able to get consistent pressure.
O’Brien will also need emerging superstar DeAndre Hopkins to keep up his torrid pace. The wideout is the undisputed number one target now that Andre Johnson is with the Colts, and he’s answered the bell with 66 receptions, 870 yards, and six touchdowns.
But Hopkins will be facing a talented Bengal secondary that has been able to contain other top receivers (like Antonio Brown).
Add in the fact that the Texans have been a terrible bet in Primetime, going 0-7 ATS in their last seven Monday nighters, and the Bengals (7-0-1 ATS on the year) look like the better bet, despite Dalton having his own history of struggles under the bright lights.
Pick: Bengals -11.
(Photo credit: emeybee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)