Texans-Bengals Preview

The injuries keep piling up for the Houston Texans, but they

have still found a way to string together a franchise-record six

straight wins.

The slumping Cincinnati Bengals would settle for one victory at

this point.

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

playoff berth.

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

wild-card spot.

“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

of reach.

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

three tries.