The Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals were the least impressive teams on the early-afternoon slate of Week 1 NFL games, but they’ll have to wait just four nights for the chance to pick up a win. The 0-1 teams will go head-to-head on “Thursday Night Football” to kick off Week 2.

The latest betting odds have Cincinnati favored by five points at home, via OddsShark. Here’s a closer look at the Week 2 game, as well as a prediction against the spread:

Why the Texans could cover the spread

The decision comes a week too late, but Deshaun Watson will get the start at quarterback. Tom Savage was benched after just two quarters in Houston’s 29-7 loss against the Jacksonvile Jaguars Sunday, totaling just one more pass completion (seven) than sacks (six).

It wasn’t Savage’s fault that he was under constant pressure, and Watson didn’t have much time to throw when he played the second half, but the rookie is much more equipped to play behind a weak offensive line. Watson wasn’t good with a 60.4 passer rating and an interception, though he did throw the Texans’ only touchdown pass of Week 1 and should be better against Cincinnati’s defense.

Watson doesn’t have to be great, or even that good, in order for the Texans to potentially upset the Bengals. He just has to avoid making big mistakes while the defense does its job. That’s been good enough to get Houston to nine wins in each of the last three seasons, and it could be good enough to win in Cincinnati.

Jacksonville didn’t win in Houston because they took advantage of the Texans’ defense. Even in what would be considered a down game for the team’s best unit, Houston still held Blake Bortles to just 125 passing yards on 21 attempts. Leonard Fournette ran for 100 yards in his NFL debut, but it took him 26 carries to do so.

J.J. Watt left the first half with a finger injury, though he showed signs of returning to his old form. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year and the rest of Houston’s vaunted pass rush should get plenty of pressure on Andy Dalton, who’s playing behind an offensive line that might be as bad as the one that’s protecting Watson.

Dalton is 1-3 in his career against Houston with just three touchdown passes and a 79.2 passer rating.

Why the Bengals could cover the spread

With more than six years and no playoff wins in the NFL, it’s pretty clear that Dalton isn’t one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks. What’s also clear is that he isn’t nearly as bad as he was in Week 1, and he’s due for a much better performance Thursday night.

Dalton had the worst numbers of any quarterback in Week 1—yes, that even includes Scott Tolzien—by throwing four interceptions and completing 16 of his 31 pass attempts for 170 yards and a 28.4 passer rating. He also had a fumble on one of his five sacks as the Bengals were shutout at home against the Baltimore Ravens.

Don’t expect Dalton to be picked off four times again, especially since a couple of those interceptions came on tipped passes. Dalton is a proven NFL starter, something the Texans don’t have on their roster. Maybe Watson will be a star in the future, but he could struggle in his first ever start on the road, particularly after playing poorly in Week 1.

Dalton is still surrounded by one of the best groups of playmakers in the league. A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert give Cincinnati an elite wide receiver-tight end combo, and Joe Mixon is better than what he showed Sunday. Houston doesn’t even have a healthy tight end on the roster with all three currently in the concussion protocol.

Five Texans were in the concussion protocol Monday. Head coach Bill O’Brien said he didn’t expect any of the players to suit up on the short week, meaning the team will probably be without linebacker Brian Cushing.

With Cushing potentially out and Watt dealing with another injury, Houston’s defense could have another disappointing performance against an offense that has some dangerous playmakers.


If either team is actually as bad as they looked in Week 1, Thursday’s game could get ugly in a hurry. Fortunately, that's probably not the case.

That doesn’t mean the Texans and Bengals don’t have major holes. The offensive line, specifically, has a chance to be awful for both teams in 2017. It’s why the over/under is just 38.

Even though they are facing a quarterback that’s about to start his first game, the Bengals shouldn’t be laying five points against a team that’s equipped to take advantage of their biggest weakness. Dalton could have another long night against the likes of Watt and Whitney Mercilus.

Houston over Cincinnati, 20-19