Long ball out of mothballs?

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VS.

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KEY MATCHUPS
OCTOBER 26, 2008

The Bengals have a problem in Houston, Cincinnati. They're on the road against a spicy Texans offense that has won two straight at home.

But if they can buck at least some of the Oh for '08 trends—no offense in the first half, no pass protection at any time, no four yards per rush, no big defensive stands in the fourth quarter—the Bengals.com roundtable thinks it will be closer than the oddsmakers make it.

And The Eye, an NFL scout familiar with the AFC North, thinks the Bengals are finally looking at enough favorable matchups (a bottom half defense that doesn't blitz much with a suspect secondary) that they can get their first win of the year.

But The Guru, a former top football exec in the NFL, doesn't think the Bengals can overcome the biggest problem of all.

"I think you can throw it on Houston, but I don't think the Bengals are a threat to throw the ball long," The Guru says. "I don't think they can stretch the field without Carson Palmer."

WHEN THE BENGALS HAVE THE BALL
* center>QB Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Texans CB Dunta Robinson*

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Fitzpatrick

That's the stat matchup of the game. Fitzpatrick's 4.6 yards per pass against the Houston defense's 8.5. He has to jack it into the seven range to make true use of his receivers.

"We've been talking about this all season about the offensive line. These are big, athletic guys who have done it in the past, so you have to say they're underachieving."

"Their two best defensive players are Williams and Ryans," The Guru says. "Ryans is a good athlete, a big guy (240 pounds) that makes plays for them. I think Benson is giving them something. He's more expolsive than Rudi Johnson."

"It's not only a good matchup on the outside with those guys," The Eye says, "but also the other guys the Bengals have like Chatman and Holt."

"What the Bengals have to guard against is the play-action pass," The Eye says. "That's how they get their big plays. They don't drop back five, seven steps and protect with six. It's mostly play-action passes."

"These guys are a lot like the two guys in Tennessee," The Eye says of Johnson and LenDale White. "I was surprised how small (5-9, 203) Slaton is. He bangs it up in there and then he can outrun you and make you miss. They've got a very solid zone scheme. The DBs have to come up and make hits. Green will grind it up there and get four, five yards leaning. It's a good duo."

Last year the Texans allowed 22 sacks and were seventh in the NFL in giving up sacks per play. They've already given up 14 and are ranked 18th.

But the Bengals may have drawn the short straw with the injury to Andre Davis because some believe his backup, Jones, is better. The 6-2, 200-pond Jones runs big, can burn it, and had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown two weeks ago. He has yet to return a kick, but his 10.6-yard average is 12th in the league in punt returns.

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