Texans at Bengals -6, O/U 38. Thursday 8:30 PM ET


A predictably low scoring game is on tap Thursday night after the Texans and Bengals both struggled miserably to generate any sort of offense in Week 1. Both teams have major concerns along their offensive lines and it will only get harder for both teams tonight as they face strong front 7s.

To give you an idea of how bad the Texans offensive line was, they gave up 6 sacks in the first half when Tom Savage was behind center.  One of those sacks led to a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. When Deshaun Watson was brought in after halftime things didn’t get any easier – Watson scored the Texans’ lone touchdown but was also sacked four times and threw an interception. He had another interception negated on an unrelated penalty. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the Texans will be without all 3 of their tight-ends and starting RG due to injuries.

Bill O’Brien is going to need to establish the run tonight in order for the Texans to move the ball – DeAndre Hopkins will see a lot of double coverages from a defense that is well-rounded in the secondary. Watson had good moments against the Jaguars and showed off a strong arm and ability to pass the ball on the run. He was an incredible player in primetime at Clemson and won’t be fazed by the moment, even though starting on the road as a rookie is the toughest stage an NFL player could experience. Expect Watson to make a few plays with his feet when plays break down. The Ravens ran the ball a whopping 42 times vs the Bengals last week and generated 157 yards so anything less than 30 rush attempts for Houston tonight would be surprising.

Andy Dalton had the worst game of his career last week vs the Ravens and threw 4 INTS as the Bengals were shutout. Brian Cushing isn’t playing tonight but JJ Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Jadeveon Clowney will dominate this offensive line if the Bengals try to be aggressive with play-calling. Expect a lot of handoffs to Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard to offset a pass rush that the Bengals can’t handle all game.

These teams have met twice the past 2 seasons and both were Texans wins – the first was in 2015 when the Texans went into Cincinnati and won 10-6 to become the first team to beat the Bengals after an 8-0 undefeated start. The second matchup came on Christmas Eve last year when Tom Savage started for the Texans and the Texans squeaked out a 12-10 victory. The common denominators in both games were low scoring and several field-goals.

Tonight’s matchup shouldn’t be much different from the past 2 seasons – it will be tough for either team to score more than 20 points tonight. This will be a game of field-position where both coaches will be happy with modest play-calling on offense while letting their defenses take over. As hard as it is for a rookie like Deshaun Watson to play a road game in primetime on a short week, it’s not much easier game-planning on a short week for a rookie QB that you don’t have much film on. The Bengals are getting a lot of love from bettors tonight as 68% of tickets are on Cincinnati -6 but this is a high of a number to lay against a strong defense who will have the edge in the trenches.

Lean: Texans +6, Under 38.


Note: In the 15 Thursday Night Football games last season (excluding Week 1 where teams were well-rested) the Under hit 10 times. 9 of those 10 times the Under covered by double digits, perhaps revealing the possibility that fatigue on a short week has an effect on offense.