The Houston Texans earned a hard-fought 13-9 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football. Fittingly, J.J. Watt ended the defensive battle with a perfectly formed tackle on center Russell Bodine.
Cincinnati fields several offensive weapons, but neither the passing attack nor ground game found success against two hard-nosed defenses over the past couple of weeks.
On the opposite sideline, quarterback Deshaun Watson earned a victory in a debut start on his 22nd birthday. Fortunately for head coach Bill O'Brien, the early switch to the dual-threat rookie signal-caller looks like the correct move behind a shaky offensive line without left tackle Duane Brown, who's still holding out.
1. Green Bay Packers (1-0)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0)
3. Seattle Seahawks (0-1)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (1-0)
5. New England Patriots (0-1)
6. Dallas Cowboys (1-0)
7. Atlanta Falcons (1-0)
8. Oakland Raiders (1-0)
9. New York Giants (0-1)
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0)
11. Miami Dolphins (0-0)
12. Carolina Panthers (1-0)
13. Baltimore Ravens (1-0)
14. Detroit Lions (1-0)
15. Minnesota Vikings (1-0)
16. Tennessee Titans (0-1)
17. Denver Broncos (1-0)
18. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
19. New Orleans Saints (0-1)
20. Houston Texans (1-1)
21. Los Angeles Chargers (0-1)
22. Washington Redskins (0-1)
23. Arizona Cardinals (0-1)
24. Los Angeles Rams (1-0)
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0)
26. Buffalo Bills (1-0)
27. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2)
28. Indianapolis Colts (0-1)
29. Chicago Bears (0-1)
30. San Francisco 49ers (0-1)
31. Cleveland Browns (0-1)
32. New York Jets (0-1)
Houston Texans Jump Two Spots
Maybe it's impatient O'Brien switching quarterbacks again. Watson became the ninth starter under center for the Texans' fourth-year head coach. Nonetheless, the rookie passer essentially sealed the victory with his legs on two particular plays.
Before halftime, Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins delivered a head-on shot to Watson for his second sack. But, the Texans quarterback answered with a 49-yard run for a score two plays later—the only touchdown scored in the contest:
There goes @deshaunwatson! 🏃💨💨 #Texans #TNF #NextGenStats https://t.co/aSWuMy7L7H2017-9-15 05:47:23
Late in the fourth quarter, Watson scrambled 11 yards to the Bengals' 24-yard line, which set up kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn for a 42-yard field goal and extended the Texans' lead to four points. Houston's defense stifled Cincinnati all night, and quarterback Andy Dalton's chances at leading his team to victory dropped dramatically with a touchdown needed for the comeback win.
The Texans need Watson's legs to bail the offense out of trouble with subpar front-line protection—a dimension Tom Savage doesn't bring to the quarterback position.
However, at some point, defenses will force Watson to sit in the pocket or contain him. Nonetheless, Houston won a close battle with a rookie quarterback who led the team with 67 rushing yards to move up two spots in the power rankings.
Cincinnati Bengals Plummet to No. 27
The Bengals couldn't score a touchdown in consecutive games at Paul Brown Stadium, which marks the first time a home team showed such offensive futility since the 1939 Philadelphia Eagles, per ESPN Stats and Info:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Bengals are first team to not score a TD in its first two games of a season, with both games at home, since 1939 Eagles (via @EliasSports).2017-9-15 03:34:55
The 1939 Eagles squad finished the season 1-9-1. The Bengals will win more than one game, but they're not a playoff team, even with linebacker Vontaze Burfict back on the field in two weeks after serving a three-game suspension.
Already, fans and analysts have questioned Dalton's and Lewis' jobs securities:
Jeff Risdon @JeffRisdon
A.J. McCarron time? That was AWFUL, Dalton...#HOUvsCIN2017-9-15 01:29:34
Damon Martin @DamonMartin
Fire Marvin Lewis. Replace Andy Dalton. Expect to see this tweet approximately 14 more times this season judging by how things are going2017-9-15 03:22:52
The Bengals haven't won a playoff game since the 1991 postseason and missed the playoffs over the past two years. Calling for jobs after two weeks seems hasty, but something needs to light a fire under this club before traveling to Lambeau Field for a matchup with the Green Bay Packers in Week 3.
Cincinnati falls to No. 27 in the power rankings.
Buffalo Bills Can Prove Something on Sunday
Many have questioned the Buffalo Bills' ranking with a winning record. Head coach Sean McDermott's group beat the New York Jets in Week 1, who will probably finish as the worst or No. 31 squad in the power rankings at the end of the season.
A 21-12 victory at home over a Jets team in full rebuild mode doesn't tell us enough about the Bills, who made changes from the front office down to the key positions on the roster. General manager Brandon Beane replaces Doug Whaley in the front office. McDermott took over for ex-head coach Rex Ryan. The new regime also traded wideout Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby.
The Bills will travel to Bank of America Stadium for a Week 2 matchup with the Carolina Panthers, which will reveal where the team stands in the early pecking order.
McDermott served as the defensive coordinator for six seasons in Carolina. With knowledge of the personnel, can he pull off consecutive wins as a rookie head coach?