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Bengals Travel To Houston To Face The Texans In Week 16


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 (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).

Setting the scene: The Bengals this week travel to Houston to face the Texans on Sunday at NRG Stadium. Cincinnati will be looking to ride the momentum of one of the biggest upsets in its history, a 27-17 win over the heavily favored Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football.

"It's exciting," said Bengals QB Ryan Finley after his first career win as a starter. "I'm obviously very happy, but I'm very happy for everyone involved too. The faces of everyone after in the locker room postgame — it's fun. We haven't had too many postgame locker rooms like that recently, so it's always fun to get a win. And it's even better beating the Steelers on Monday night."

Pittsburgh entered the game favored by 14 points, and riding a streak of 11 straight wins over Cincinnati. Furthermore, the Bengals had turned to their third starting QB of the season in Finley, and lost their leading receiver, Tyler Boyd, to a concussion midway through the first quarter.

Cincinnati, though, controlled the game from the start, forcing three Pittsburgh turnovers in the first half. The Bengals converted all three into points, while the defense held Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger to just 19 passing yards in the first half, his fewest ever before halftime in 230 career starts.

"Our defense was playing with a ton of energy," Taylor said. "They were getting guys on the ground, and I didn't see many missed tackles. They made some big one-on-one plays down the field, which we knew was going to be a big part of the game. The Steelers do a great job of finding those one-on-ones and getting big plays, but our DBs really stepped up and made those plays when their number was called."

After Cincinnati took a 17-0 into the half, Pittsburgh's offense responded and found a rhythm in the third quarter to trim the margin to 17-10. But the Steelers, the NFL's top-ranked scoring defense entering the contest, struggled to contain a run-heavy Bengals offense that featured 41 rushes and just 13 pass attempts.

On the other side of the ball, Cincinnati's defense withstood Pittsburgh's second-half comeback attempt with timely stops and constant pressure on Roethlisberger. The most noteworthy of those stops came late in the fourth quarter, when the Steelers took over possession trailing by seven points with 2:17 remaining. But the Bengals' defense stood tall, forcing four straight Roethlisberger incompletions and a turnover on downs. A late Bengals FG pushed their lead to two scores, and gave Cincinnati a 27-17 win.

This week, the Bengals face a Houston team that has won its last three matchups with Cincinnati. There is also uncertainty as to who will line up under center for Cincinnati — Finley or Brandon Allen. Last week, Taylor told the media that Allen, who suffered a knee injury in Game 13 vs. Dallas, was the team's starter when healthy. But Finley was widely credited for a strong performance against Pittsburgh that featured a TD pass, TD run and multiple first-down conversions in key moments.

The Texans enter Sunday's matchup 4-10, after losing 27-20 at Indianapolis last week.

The series: The Texans lead 8-4, including 2-0 in postseason. The Texans also lead 4-2 in games played in Houston.

The Texans have won the last three meetings, and eight of the last nine matchups since 2008, including a pair of Wild Card playoffs at Houston after the 2011 and '12 seasons. The Bengals' only win in that stretch was a 22-13 victory at Houston in 2014.

Hello again, Houston: Though the Bengals and Houston Texans have met only 12 times, Cincinnati's NFL rivalry against teams from Houston spans 69 games. The total includes 57 meetings between the Bengals and the Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans). Those 57 games were split evenly, 28- 28-1, and the Bengals-Texans series is led 8-4 by Houston.

Bengals-Texans connections: Texans DT Andrew Brown entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Bengals entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Bengals in 2018, and was with the team through Oct. 20 of this season. He played in four games for Cincinnati earlier this year ... Texans QB AJ McCarron entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Bengals in 2014, and was with the team through the '17 season ... Bengals DT Christian Covington entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick of the Texans in 2015, and was with the team through the '18 season. Covington also played at Rice University ... Bengals G Xavier Su'a-Filo entered the NFL as a second-round pick of the Texans in 2014, and was with the team through the '17 season ... Bengals LS Clark Harris spent time with the Texans from 2008-09 ...Bengals S Brandon Wilson and CB William Jackson III both played at the University of Houston. Jackson is also from Houston (Wheatley High School) ... Bengals C Trey Hopkins is from Houston (North Shore High School), and also played at the University of Texas ... Bengals HB Trayveon Williams, K Randy Bullock and G Keaton Sutherland all played at Texas A&M. Williams is from Houston (C.E. King High School), and Bullock is from Klein, Texas (Klein High School) ... Bengals DT D.J. Reader (Reserve/Injured) entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick of the Texans in 2016, and was with the team through the '19 season ... Texans C/G Greg Mancz (practice squad) is from Cincinnati (Anderson High School), and also played at the University of Toledo ... Texans ILB Nate Hall is from Toledo, Ohio (Southview High School) ... Texans S Lonnie Johnson Jr. played at the University of Kentucky ... Bengals CB Brian Allen (practice squad) is from La Marque, Texas (La Marque High School) ... Bengals CB Tony Brown (Reserve/Injured) is from Beaumont, Texas (Ozen High School) ... Texans T Elijah Nkansah (practice squad) played at the University of Toledo... Texans CB Gareon Conley (Reserve/Injured) and Bradley Roby (Reserve/Suspended) both played at Ohio State University ... Texans DT Brandon Dunn (Reserve/Injured) is from Louisville, Ky., and played at the University of Louisville ... Texans OLB Davin Bellamy (Practice Squad/Injured) was on the Bengals' practice squad in 2019 ... Bengals tight ends coach James Casey played TE for the Texans from 2009-12. Casey also played at Rice University from 2007-08, and coached at the University of Houston from 2016-18 ... Bengals secondary/cornerbacks coach Steve Jackson is from Houston, and also played defensive back from the Houston Oilers (and later Tennessee Titans) from 1991-99 ... Six Bengals coaches have served as assistants at Texas A&M University: head coach Zac Taylor (2008-11), strength and conditioning coach Joey Boese ('08-11), defensive assistant Gerald Chatman ('15), assistant offensive line coach Ben Martin ('10-11), offensive line coach Jim Turner ('08-11, '16-18), and assistant wide receivers coach Troy Walters ('10-11) ... Bengals wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell coached at Baylor University in 2017 ... Texans offensive line coach Mike Devlin coached at the University of Toledo from 2004-05 ... Texans inside linebackers coach Bobby King is from Louisville, Ky. ... Texans assistant strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer coached at the University of Louisville from 2010-13.

Bengals on historic fourth-down pace: The Bengals' offense this season has successfully converted 18 of its 25 fourth-down attempts, good for a 72.0 percentage that ranks third in the NFL. The Elias Sports Bureau, whose records on fourth-down conversions go back to 1977, reports that Cincinnati's 18 fourth-down conversions this year already are tied for the fourth-most ever in the NFL over that time frame.

The Bengals need just two more fourth-down conversions over the final two games to tie the NFL record of 20, set in 1996 by the Chicago Bears. Cincinnati's 18 fourth-down conversions already easily outpace the previous team record of 14, set in 1992 (the team's records go back to '82).

Check out some of the best images from the Bengals vs. Texans series through the years.

15 carries for Gio does the trick: Over his now seven seasons in Cincinnati, Giovani Bernard has carved out a spot among the top dual-threat running backs in team history.

But when examining Bernard's workload specifically as a rusher throughout his career, a significant trend becomes apparent — 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, with both instances coming in Bengals wins — in Game 8 vs. Tennessee, and Game 14 vs. Pittsburgh.

In the 14 games in which Bernard has reached 15 carries, he has averaged 77.6 yards, scored nine rushing TDs and topped 100 yards three times.

Bates enjoying his best season: Bengals S Jessie Bates this season has been among the top performers — offense or defense — on the team, drawing praise from many observers as one of the top safeties in the NFL.

Bates, a 2018 second-round pick of the Bengals, has started all 14 games this season and has 96 tackles (second on team), including two for losses, along with 15 PDs (tied for fourth in NFL), three INTs and a FF. He also has one tackle on special teams, and it was a big one — a touchdown-saving stop on a kick return in Game 13 vs. Dallas, as Cowboys RB Tony Pollard began to break into the clear.

Higgins eyeing Bengals rookie records: WR Tee Higgins has had an impressive first NFL season, and remains on a trajectory that by year's end could land him among the top rookie pass-catchers in team history.

Higgins' 61 catches through 14 games already rank as the third-most ever by a Bengals rookie. He has two more games to catch the two players in front of him — WRs Cris Collinsworth (67) and A.J. Green (65).

Higgins also has 809 receiving yards this season, and is on pace to land within the top five rookie seasons by a Bengal in that category. Green has the team rookie record for receiving yards (1057), followed by Collinsworth (1009) and WRs Eddie Brown (942), Darnay Scott (866) and Isaac Curtis (843).

But Higgins (five TDs) has some work to do in order to approach the 47-year old rookie record of nine receiving TDs, set in 1973 by WR Isaac Curtis. Collinsworth and Brown (both had eight) are tied for second in that category, followed by Green (seven) and WR Chris Henry (six).

Higgins also has two 100-yard receiving games, two shy of Green (four) for most by a Bengals rookie. Curtis and Brown (three) are tied for second place.

Rookie class producing early: Despite the lack of an offseason program to ease the college-to-pro adjustment, the Bengals this year have leaned heavily upon their draft class. The seven players drafted by Cincinnati in April have combined to play in 85 games this season, with 30 starts, good for a pace of 97 games and 34 starts over a full 16-game slate. It should be noted though that both paces have slowed in recent weeks after rookie QB Joe Burrow suffered a season ending knee injury in Game 10 at Washington.

The most combined games played by a Bengals draft class since 1994 (the year the draft went to seven rounds) is 99, achieved by the 11-player draft class of 2017. The most combined starts over the same period is 50, by the nine-player draft class of 1998.