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Houston Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer has been efficient since taking over the starting role for good.(Photo: Troy Taormina, Troy Taormina USA TODAY Sports)Every week seems to bring about another milestone or put to rest some kind of storyline for the Cincinnati Bengals, the latest being their primetime record the last four years. A 30 10 victory over Cleveland last Thursday has given them two straight victories under the national spotlight and they host a struggling Houston team on Monday night with a great chance for a third consecutive win. The Bengals beat the Texans 22 13 a year ago in Texas.Houston has taken a turn for the worse under head coach Bill O’Brien after going 9 7 in his first season a year ago and sit at 3 5. A quarterback controversy and a series of injuries at running back and along the offensive line have decimated that unit in the run game (29th). But, Brian Hoyer has directed the league’s sixth best passing offense.The Texans rely heavily on wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (66 catches, 870 yards, 6 TD) in that pass game; with the next closest receivers (Cecil Shorts III, Nate Washington) checking in with 26 catches each. Alfred Blue leads the running game with 273 yards on the ground, but as a team Houston averages just 3.3 yards per carry. Defensively, the Texans have allowed 988 yards (25th) and seven touchdowns (21st) on the ground, which has helped the pass defense to the league’s eighth best ranking. But, the Texans have allowed 16 passing touchdowns.Texans of note on offenseQB Brian HoyerRyan Mallett finally solved Houston head coach Bill O’Brien’s quarterback dilemma by oversleeping his way off the team, but Hoyer has been the better quarterback all season. In his six games (four starts) the 30 year old journeyman has posted a 97.1 rating while completing 60 percent of his passes. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns against three interceptions. A year ago he didn’t turn the ball over while throwing for 198 yards in Cleveland’s 24 3 victory over the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.T Derek NewtonNewton has been one of the few stabilizers on an offensive line that has used a different combination in each of the Texans’ games. A starter at right tackle, he slid over to the left side two weeks ago when Pro Bowler Duane Brown was lost to a concussion. He also played both guard positions this year. Newton signed a 5 year, $26.5 million deal in the offseason and has improved throughout his career, but he’ll have his hands full no matter what spot he is set at Monday night.WR Nate WashingtonAll eyes will be on DeAndre Hopkins, as well they should be, but the 32 year old Washington can still make plays. He’s been targeted in the double digits in two different games and he responded with 100 yard efforts in both contests. He’s also caught three touchdowns in the last two games. WattThe reigning Defensive Player of the Year is second in the league in sacks with 8.5, and has 40 tackles and five passes defensed and continues to wreak havoc across offensive lines. Watt moves around, so he’ll likely challenge each member of the Bengals’ offensive line at some point.LB Whitney MercilusA first round pick in 2012, Mercilus has emerged as the next best pass rush threat alongside Watt, a role many felt Jadeveon Clowney would fill. But Clowney’s dealt with injury throughout his brief career while Mercilus has recorded at least five sacks each of the last four seasons. He has 5.5 already, putting him on pace for his first double digit sack season.NT Vince WilforkThe Texans signed the veteran away from New England to help shore up the run defense, but the 34 year old has had his issues in that regard. He has recorded just eight tackles on the year and, according to the Houston Chronicle, the Texans are allowing 4.3 yards per rush up the middle thus far on the year.Quick factsTV: ESPN with Mike Tirico (play by play), Jon Gruden (analyst) and Lisa Salters (sideline), WLWT TV (Channel 5).
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