WHAT: Texans (3-5) at Bengals (8-0)
WHERE: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati
WHEN: Monday night, beginning with 8 p.m. ESPN coverage
BACKGROUND: The Bengals are healthy and well rested at home for Monday Night Football, having last played 11 days ago in a Thursday night nationally televised win against Cleveland. This is another chance for Cincinnati to remake its reputation as a folding team during prime time. It's crucial for the Texans in their pursuit of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South Division
BENGALS: They are leading the AFC North Division with a 8-0 record, and are one of three unbeaten NFL teams remaining along with the Patriots and Panthers. The Bengals are on track for a first-round playoff bye. Monday's game offers a favorable matchup for Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton and his big-play receivers, including A.J. Green, and tight end Tyler Eifert, who leads the team with nine touchdowns. The Texans have been weak against the pass, but the Bengals would love to jump-start the running game with Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, both of whom are capable of taking over a game.
TEXANS: It’s never easy for an offense facing Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, the two-time NFL defensive player of the year with two 20-plus sack seasons. Houston also is well rested as it is coming off a bye week after an important win over the Titans. The Texans are still in the playoff chase, as bad as they have played so far. The keys on offense are quarterback Brian Hoyer and emerging standout wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who has 870 yards receiving and six touchdowns. The running game is a weakness as Alfred Blue leads the team with just 273 yards.