Is This The Week? Bengals Seek Win In Houston

The Bengals are still searching for their first win of the season. The Houston Texans and dynamic DE Mario Williams are attempting to win their third game in a row after starting the season 0-4. Which team gets what they want?

WHO: Cincinnati Bengals (0-7) at Houston Texans (2-4)

WHERE: Reliant Stadium

WHEN: Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

SERIES: 4th regular meeting; Bengals lead series, 3-0.

LAST MEETING: Bengals won, 16-10, at Paul Brown Stadium on 10/02/05.

KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his fourth start of the season for the Bengals. He made strides last weekend, throwing with more precision and confidence, but the protection from unit that has allowed 26 sacks must improve with Titans DE Mario Williams on the other side of the line. Getting RB Cedric Benson rolling is important to avoid getting caught up in a shootout. ... The Texans' passing game is rolling, and it has the ground game to thank. With rookie RB Steve Slaton now backed up by a healthy Ahman Green, Houston ranks fifth with an average time of possession of 33:12. It's also creating far fewer dangerous passing situations for QB Matt Schaub. The Bengals' defense has played well in spurts, but must take advantage of a Houston team that is still last in the league with a minus-nine turnover margin.

KEY INJURIES: Bengals: QB Carson Palmer (inflamed right elbow) is out and considered week-to-week. Texans: Davis (finger) is not expected to play.

FAST FACTS: The last time the Bengals were 0-7 was in 2002, when they traveled to Houston and won 38-3. ... The Texans have won six of their past seven home games.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Bengals:

*LB Corey Mays (ankle) did not practice Thursday and is likely to miss the Texans game.

*K Shayne Graham (right groin, kicking leg) participated fully in practice Thursday and will kick Sunday at Houston.

*CB Jamar Fletcher (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to miss the Texans game Sunday.

*TE Ben Utecht (chest) was limited Wednesday and Thursday.

*WR Glenn Holt (ankle) is practicing fully and will return kickoffs Sunday.

*WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (ankle) did not practice Wednesday but participated fully Thursday.

*CB Johnathan Joseph (ankle) did not practice Wednesday but was limited Thursday. He is expected to start Sunday.

*LB Dhani Jones (foot) did not practice Wednesday but had full participation Thursday. He is expected to start Sunday.

*TE Nate Lawrie (back) was limited Thursday in practice.

*CB David Jones (knee) did not practice Wednesday but was able to participate in limited fashion Thursday.

*S Kyries Hebert (ankle) did not practice Wednesday but was able to participate in limited fashion Thursday.

*WR Antonio Chatman (ankle) did not practice Thursday.

*WR Jerome Simpson (ankle) did not practice Thursday.

*DE Frostee Rucker (shoulder) was limited in practice Wednesday but did not practice Thursday.

*FB Reagan Maui'a (hamstring) was added Thursday to the injury report as limited in practice.

Texans:

*DE Mario Williams has a bruise on his shoulder and was held out of contact drills in practice Thursday. The Texans fully expect him to play and start Sunday.

*WR David Anderson will not only play as the slot receiver this week, but he will also possibly return kickoffs. With Andre' Davis out for about three weeks, Anderson and Jacoby Jones are practicing returning kicks. Jones will likely get the first opportunity.

*QB Matt Schaub has completed 65.9 percent of his passes over the last two seasons to rank sixth in the NFL.

*K Kris Brown remains perfect this season. It is his best year since 1999 when he was a rookie. He is 14-for-14 on field goals this year. His personal best is 15 consecutive field goals made.

*P Matt Turk's 48.8-yard net punting average in last week's game was the highest in Texans history and was tied for the fifth-best net average in his career.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Bengals:

A loss Sunday at Houston would make the Bengals 0-8 for the fifth time in franchise history.

If the current Bengals lose to the Texans, they will join the 1978, 1991, 1993 and 1994 editions of the Bengals at 0-8.

The 1993 Bengals had the worst start in the 41-season history of the Cincinnati franchise at 0-10.

Bill Johnson was fired as coach in 1978 after an 0-5 start. Homer Rice replaced him and was 4-7 overall. Sam Wyche coached the 1991 Bengals, and Dave Shula was the coach of the 1993 and 1994 teams.

Marvin Lewis, the coach of the 2008 team, is 7-19 as head coach in his past 26 games.

He is trying to stay positive during the losing streak.

"Well I think it is (difficult to stay focused) if you didn't have good guys," Lewis said. "And I think we're fortunate right now to still have a good, spirited group and good guys. I think we have guys who understand and want to be looked upon as good players, and so they're competing not only for a chance to play here on this team, but to win and be successful.

"You're exactly right. I've got to keep a close eye on that. That if we're not getting the effort, we have some depth in some places that would be good. And I think that also drives guys to do things right and correctly and so forth. Myself, I've got to make sure the coaches understand we've got to pay closer detail to that."

The Bengals have had eight losing streaks of seven or more games in the past 18 seasons.

"I think our captains have done a good job of that," Lewis said about players encouraging him, the other coaches and their teammates to keep working hard. "Even Carson (Palmer), who's been injured, I think he continues to be a big voice and a strong leader even not playing, which is difficult to do. I commend him for that and hope he continues to reinforce that amongst the guys.".

Texans:

Andre Johnson is the first to admit that one reason he has become the hottest receiver in the NFL is because of tight end Owen Daniels.

In his last three games, Johnson has caught 30 passes for 450 yards and two touchdowns. He leads the league with an average of 104.8 yards a game.

Daniels leads AFC tight ends with 29 catches, 374 yards and a 12.9-yard average per catch and has an AFC-best 21 receptions for first downs.

"Owen does a lot that helps me," Johnson said. "He opens up the middle of the field. He can catch the ball down the middle or coming across the field.

"He's doing a lot of great things every week and showing he's one of the top tight ends in the league. We can see that he's playing with so much confidence. He's playing really well, and he's going to play even better."

In Sunday's 28-21 victory over Detroit, Daniels had six catches for 66 yards and his first two touchdown receptions of the season.

"It felt good to get that first touchdown, but to get the second one felt even better," Daniels said. "Now I'd like to catch some more."

That's up to quarterback Matt Schaub, of course, but considering how much the Texans have been throwing in their last four games, there's a good chance Daniels will eclipse his career high of five touchdowns when he was a rookie in 2006.

In his last three starts, Schaub is 77 of 113 for 933 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. In those games, Daniels has caught 17 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns.

"I feel confident about the way I'm playing," Daniels said. "As far as my consistency, I'm leaps and bounds ahead of where I was last year. I'm trying to catch everything that comes my way.

"I think I've gotten better on the line of scrimmage. One of the biggest things for me is to be looked on as a guy who can be counted on to run block and to hold up on pass protection by blocking defensive ends."

With the winless Cincinnati Bengals coming to Reliant Stadium on Sunday, Daniels has a chance to catch a lot more.

"He's something else," coach Gary Kubiak said about Daniels. "He has exceptional work habits. He's an unselfish player. This kid hasn't missed a day of practice in three years.

"He's also a very smart player. We play him all over the place. We probably challenge him more than any player on offense. He's beating two-deep coverage, and he's beating man coverage."

PREDICTION: Texans, 27-20

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