Houston at Cincinnati (-6.5, 37.5), 8:30 pm ET, NFLN
One of these teams will leave the field 0-2, having dropped a second straight contest against a conference foe. Considering each entered the season with realistic playoff aspirations, the loser will be digging themselves a major hole since both teams are on the road next week as heavy underdogs against Super Bowl contenders.
The Bengals are still looking for their first points of the season after a wasteful effort against the Ravens. Andy Dalton drove the offense into the red zone on multiple occasions only to turn the ball over, throwing an awful interception in the end zone while also fumbling after being sacked once he missed an open receiver who probably would’ve scored. It was a forgettable effort for Dalton (16-for-31, 170 yards, 4 INTs), but he at least got to finish the game.
Texans starter Tom Savage lasted one half after the Jaguars built a 19-0 lead through the first two quarters in Houston on Sunday. He lasted just 31 plays, completing 7 of 13 passes for 62 yards before being benched in favor of rookie Desean Watson.
Savage’s agent, Neil Schwartz, told NBC Sports he didn’t understand the move and pointed out that 12 of his client’s 13 passes hit receivers in the hands. Because Jaelen Strong was suspended and Will Fuller is out with a broken collarbone, the Texans have continuity issues at receiver behind No. 1 targer DeAndre Hopkins, though they’ll get Strong back from suspension and are expected to have Braxton Miller closer to 100 percent after an ankle sprain.
Watson will get his first NFL start on his 22nd birthday, getting his feet wet in the second half of the loss to Jacksonville by throwing a TD pass to Hopkins and also tossing his first pro interception. He’s the ninth starting quarterback of head coach Bill O’Brien’s tenure, the most any team has employed in that span (since 2014). His mobility figures to give the Texans a fighting chance given their aforementioned issues at receiver and an offensive line that got abused by the Jaguars’ front seven and remains without top tackle Duane Brown, who is holding out for a pay raise he certainly deserves given the state of affairs up front.
Although Dalton’s five turnovers were the major culprit in Cincinnati’s Week 1 woes, his offensive line did him no favors either. The Bengals are also utilizing a running back by committee approach that didn’t allow anyone to get comfortable. Jeremy Hill started, rookie Joe Mixon got the most carries and the versatile Giovani Bernard also got time, so we’ll see how Lewis juggles his backs in this one. Dalton is just 1-5 against the Texans in his career and probably isn’t excited at the prospect of having to bounce back from one of his worst games ever by facing a J.J. Watt-led defense.
The Texans lost the first three meetings between these franchises but have won seven of eight over the past decade, including three in Cincinnati. Two of those victories came in the wild card round of the playoffs, though both of those wins came under O’Brien’s predecessor, Gary Kubiak. O’Brien himself is 2-1 with Houston against Marvin Lewis’ Bengals and has one more playoff win than his counterpart, who is in his 15th season at the helm but has come up empty in seven postseason games.
The Texans have covered only one of their last six games and are 1-4 ATS in their last five road games. They’re 7-2 ATS against Cincinnati, which has covered four of its last six after a brutal run to start last season. The UNDER has prevailed in five consecutive Bengals games and is 6-3 in Houston’s last nine.
Season win total: 8.5 (Over +100, Under -120)
Odds to win AFC South: 9/4 to 7/2
Odds to win AFC: 30/1 to 50/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 60/1 to 100/1
Season win total: 8.5 (Over +120, Under -140)
Odds to win AFC North: 7/2 to 7/1
Odds to win AFC: 25/1 to 50/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 50/1 to 100/1