The injuries keep piling up for the Houston Texans, but they
have still found a way to string together a franchise-record six
The slumping Cincinnati Bengals would settle for one victory at
With All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson out, rookie
third-string quarterback T.J. Yates will be under center for the
Texans on Sunday when they could clinch their first AFC South title
with a team-record 10th win.
Now that Matt Schaub (foot) and Matt Leinart (collarbone) are
out for the season, the Texans (9-3) have given the keys to their
offense to Yates, a fifth-round pick from North Carolina.
Houston, though, is not expecting the rookie to carry the club,
especially with Arian Foster and Ben Tate leading the NFL’s
third-ranked rushing attack at 152.6 yards per game. The Texans are
also second in total defense allowing 271.4 yards per game and
points allowed per contest with 15.8.
Yates was sacked three times and missed a few throws in his
first NFL start last Sunday, a 17-10 victory over Atlanta, but
Texans coach Gary Kubiak will gladly take a 188-yard effort with a
touchdown and no interceptions.
“Just his play, in particular, was encouraging,” Kubiak said
Monday. “He can get a lot better, and there are so many things
he’ll learn from throughout the course of the game, and watching
himself on tape, play that many plays.”
Yates also has the benefit of learning the ropes from two of the
most experienced backups in the NFL. Jake Delhomme signed with the
Texans last week and 41-year-old Jeff Garcia will be the No. 3
quarterback Sunday after inking a deal Wednesday.
Yates, though, will not have Johnson to throw to after the
team’s all-time leading receiver suffered a mild left hamstring
injury last week. It was Johnson’s second game back after missing
six following surgery on his right hamstring.
”It’s very disappointing,” Johnson said. ”You work your butt
off to get back after missing six games and then to have something
like this to happen again is very frustrating. But at the same
time, the team’s in a great position. I’m just trying to do
everything I can to get back, so that I can get back out on the
field and play.”
Without Johnson, the Texans will go for a season record for
wins. If that happens and second-place Tennessee falls to New
Orleans on Sunday, Houston will clinch the South and its first
The Bengals’ road to the postseason is not as clear cut, as they
have dropped three of four following a 5-0 run. Cincinnati’s last
three losses have come against Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
“Anybody would have a tough time with that stretch but they’re
right in the middle of a playoff race,” Kubiak said. “They are a
playoff football team as of right now.”
Cincinnati didn’t play like one last Sunday, committing 10
penalties in a 35-7 loss at Pittsburgh. Rookie quarterback Andy
Dalton, though, knows the Bengals have three home games left and a
chance to break out of the pack of five 7-5 teams to secure a
“We can’t let this affect the next four,” Dalton said of the
Bengals’ most-lopsided defeat since falling 37-0 to the New York
Jets on Jan. 3, 2010.
However, facing the league’s third-ranked passing defense could
be a major test for Dalton, who was 11 for 24 with 135 yards last
Sunday before sitting during the fourth quarter with the game out
If Dalton connects with wide receiver A.J. Green for a TD, they
will tie St. Louis’ Tony Banks and Eddie Kennison (1996) for the
third-most combined TDs for a rookie quarterback and rookie wide
receiver in league history with seven.
The Bengals have lost two in a row to the Texans after winning
the first three meetings. The last time these teams played, Houston
won 28-17 on Oct. 18, 2009, for its first victory in Cincinnati in