The Bengals play their final road contest of the 2020 season when they head to the Lone Star state to face the Houston Texans on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
Cincinnati enters the game with an abundance of positive momentum after a 27-17 victory on Monday Night Football over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Meanwhile after an 0-4 start to 2020, the Texans have played better under interim head coach Romeo Crennel going 4-6 since the coaching change.
Here are the three things to watch as the Bengals face the Texans in Week 16.
1. Follow The Blueprint - For the Bengals in 2020 the blueprint to success has been simple: run the football and force turnovers. The Bengals average 158.3 rushing yards and showcase a plus-4 turnover differential in the three wins this season.
A big factor to the run game resurgence is the wily veteran Giovani Bernard. The Bengals are 12-1-1 in games in which Bernard has at least 15 rushing attempts. Bernard has topped 15 carries twice this season — both victories (Tennessee and Pittsburgh). Bernard rushed 25 times for 83 yards and one touchdown and added a 14-yard touchdown catch in the Bengals' Week 15 win over the Steelers.
2. Protection Plan – When it comes to pass protection, both offensive lines have struggled this season. Cincinnati has allowed the second-most sacks this season with 48, with the Texans just behind at 45.
For the Texans, it's been a downward trend of late allowing 17 sacks in the previous three games. In fact, all six of Deshaun Watson's interceptions and all but four of his 44 sacks have come on plays on which he's had more than two and a half seconds in the pocket. It's remarkable that Watson, who was named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl on Monday, has enjoyed the success in 2020 with 4,143 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and a league-best 8.8 yards per pass attempt.
3. Fast And Furious – The Bengals secondary will see a vastly different Texans receiving group than what was available to Houston at the beginning of the month. Will Fuller V is suspended, Randall Cobb is on injured reserve and Kenny Stills was waived. Despite the receiver losses, the Bengals will face a different challenge in Watson who is one of the best deep ball passers in the NFL and can blow a defense up with explosive plays.
The Bengals will have to counter Watson's penchant for looking downfield with a great coverage and an effective pass rush. Those are two areas of the Bengals defense that have improved over the previous two weeks. Two veteran signal callers, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Dallas' Andy Dalton, have been held to average of 164.5 passing yards per game.
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Eastern.
Television: The game will air on FOX-TV. In the Bengals' home region, it will be carried by WXIX-TV (Ch. 19) in Cincinnati, WGRT-TV (Ch. 45) in Dayton, WDKY-TV (Ch. 56) in Lexington, and WTTE-TV (Ch. 28) in Columbus. Broadcasters are Chris Myers (play-by-play), Greg Jennings (analyst) and Jen Hale (sideline reporter).
Radio: The game will air on the Bengals Radio Network, led by Cincinnati flagship stations WLW-AM (700), WCKY-AM (ESPN 1530; all sports) and WEBN-FM (102.7). Broadcasters are Dan Hoard (play-by-play) and Dave Lapham (analyst).