Texans at Bengals: Five things to watch

Posted at 5:43 AM, Nov 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-16 05:43:53-05

CINCINNATI — The spotlight will be on Andy Dalton, but Carlos Dunlap and J.J. Watt may try to steal it on Monday night.

The two came into the weekend tied for second in the AFC in sacks and will be targeting the QBs when the 3-5 Houston Texans play the 8-0 Bengals on Monday Night Football.

A few things to watch:

CAN THE BENGALS RUN THE TABLE?: Players say an undefeated season is not their goal after losing in the first round of the playoffs the past four years. Their goal is higher.

 "I couldn't care less if we lose a few games and make it to the playoffs," safety George Iloka said. "A perfect season is not really one of the goals we set in the offseason. The perfect postseason is what we set out for."

No AFC North team has ever started the season 9-0. The last and 29th NFL team to do it was the 2013 Chiefs.

GET THOSE SACKS: Cincinnati's Dunlap and Houston's Watt entered the weekend with 8½ sacks, one behind New England's Chandler Jones. And they've been watching each other.

"When you're competing for leading the league in sacks, you see those names," Dunlap said. "Anytime somebody is tied with you or above you, you take note to try to outdo them that day. We know with our D-line we can set the tone and change the whole thing."

No Bengals player has ever led the league or the AFC in sacks during a season since it became an official statistic in 1982. The club record is 13 by Eddie Edwards in 1983. By contrast, Watt led the league with 20½ sacks in 2012. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year was the first to have a pair of 20-sack seasons.

The Bengals' O-line won't be at full strength with RT Andre Smith out for second straight week with a concussion.

CLOWNEY'S HEALTH: Houston linebacker Jadeveon Clowney has been limited by injuries in his second season in the NFL. The latest setback is a back injury he suffered on Nov. 1 against Tennessee. Clowney returned to practice this week and should play on Monday.

"He's dealing with I'd say a minor back issue, but it's painful," coach Bill O'Brien said. "He's dealing with it and just trying to work back into it."

Clowney, who was the top overall pick in the 2014 draft, played only four games last season because of surgery on his right knee. He also missed one game this season with an ankle injury.

FILLING IN FOR FOSTER: The Texans are still searching for a way to get their running game going after they managed just 56 yards rushing against Tennessee. With Arian Foster out with an injured Achilles tendon, Houston ranks 29th in the league with only 87.9 yards rushing. Alfred Blue started in Houston's most recent game and managed just 39 yards rushing on 14 carries.

"Foster's not there," Dunlap said. "That's their best player."

PRIME TIME: The Bengals are playing the second of three straight prime time games. They beat the Browns 31-10 on a Thursday night, and play their next game Sunday night at Arizona. Cincinnati's success has resulted in a club-record five prime time games this season. The Bengals are only 11-20 on Monday nights, but they beat the Broncos in such a game last December to ease the talk that they can't win one.

"I think we're starting to silence that one," Dalton said. "I don't think we're getting that question as much."