Game Overview ::
By hilow >>
- I’m writing this super early, so I don’t even have the first injury report from either team.
- It looks like Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase will carry an injury designation into the weekend after his big fall in Week 9, where he landed directly on his lower back while in full stretch trying to corral a deep ball. I expect him to play, but he’s probably going to carry a questionable designation into the weekend – that is fully me projecting it out.
- RB Dameon Pierce (ankle) and WR Robert Woods (foot) are the names to watch on the injury report this week for the Texans, each of whom missed the team’s Week 9 game against the Buccaneers. It’s entirely too early to say whether or not they’ll be back with the team in Week 10 against the Bengals, but we’ll write this game up as if they will miss and highlight where things would change should they play.
- This game carries elite upside, accompanied by a rather shaky floor due to significant uncertainties on both sides of the ball.
- Both teams rank in the bottom five in yards per carry and have demonstrated elite abilities through the air. If only looking at their recent tendencies and negating what we’ve seen during the rest of the season, this spot would absolutely pop on paper as a likely passing extravaganza.
How houston Will Try To Win ::
We covered the tale of two seasons for Bobby Slowik and the Texans offense in multiple places last week leading into their game against the Bucs. Slowik had been one of the more forward-leaning offensive play callers through the first four weeks of the 2023 season before falling back into a shell during the second month. That took the form of the highest first-down rush rate in the league and innumerable long-down and distance-to-go situations. Then, with Dameon Pierce out of the lineup against the pass-funnel nature of the Buccaneers defense, Slowik dialed up 19 first-down pass plays (yea, they ran a lot of plays) and attacked downfield relentlessly to Tank Dell and Noah Brown and over the intermediate areas of the field to Nico Collins and tight end Dalton Schultz. We saw what happened with the more unpredictable nature of that style of play calling last week, which brings promise in a spot where the Texans will likely need to keep their collective feet on the gas once again. The potential return of Dameon Pierce could theoretically alter those play-calling tendencies back to a more muted stance, but it is more likely that we see Slowik remain aggressive knowing that Joe Burrow appears fully healthy and has returned to playing at a high level since the team’s Week 7 bye. In total, the Texans are right around league average in pass rate over expectation and rank ninth in seconds per play at 27.6, but we’ve seen Slowik adopt a more aggressive stance via game planning and game management in spots that seem to dictate it, which the Bengals very clearly present this week. All of that to say, even though Slowik’s tendencies have been a case of Jekyll and Hyde this season, the Bengals present the potential for Slowik to continue in a more pass-aggressive design in Week 10.
Even though the backfield personnel could change heading into Week 10 with the uncertainty surrounding lead back Dameon Pierce’s status, the overall feel of this offense should remain largely unchanged in that they have struggled on the ground through the first half of the 2023 season, regardless of who is seeing the usage in the backfield. The Texans rank 30th as a team in yards per carry at 3.3 ypc, Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary both hold a meager 3.5 yards per touch, and the Texans offensive line ranks 31st in yards generated before contact this season (1.05, ahead of only the Panthers). The Bengals rank 31st in yards allowed per carry (5.0) and have yielded 1.48 yards before contact this season, which introduces some level of uncertainty regarding how aggressive through the air we expect Slowik to be in this spot. That is to say; the pure matchup presents a very different look than what the team saw last week against a clear pass-funnel defense in the Bucs.
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As such, we should view the Texans pass offense as a unit that carries a ton of upside against a Bengals pass defense that ranks 10th in DVOA but has allowed the fourth most net yards per attempt through the air and a 63.5 percent completion rate against. We should also remember that Slowik has demonstrated some night and day play-calling tendencies that put their offense behind the sticks for an entire month of play before last week’s reversion to more of what we saw during the first month of the season. Nico Collins remains the top option from an efficiency-per-route perspective against both man and zone coverage this season, but he also has just one game with double-digit targets this season and has a maximum of six targets over the previous four games. Just like the offense as a whole, Collins should primarily be viewed as a player carrying elite ceiling that comes with a rather shaky floor. The same can be said of Tank Dell, Noah Brown (less so for Robert Woods, should he return, who does not carry the same per-touch upside as the rest of the group), and tight end Dalton Schultz, although Schultz has the matchup working in his favor against a Bengals defense that has struggled with in-line tight ends this season as they continue to work through the departures of both All-Pro safeties this offseason.