Bengals RG Kevin Zeitler vs. Texans NT Vince Wilfork
The key variable in the winning formula last year against the Texans was running the ball 43 times, but that was before Wilfork arrived in Houston after 11 seasons in New England.
A run-stopping specialist, the gigantic Wilfork (6-foot-2, 325 pounds) is a five-time Pro Bowler who could be in the Hall of Fame discussion whenever he calls it a career.
“He’s definitely a challenge,” Zeitler said. “I think there’s only one guy (340-pound Pat Sims) on this team that could even possibly give us a look like that, and he doesn’t do scout team. It’s going to be unique. It’s going to be quite an experience when we get out there.”
But it’s not just Wilfork’s size that makes him difficult to block.
“He’s a massive man, but he really understands football,” Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth said. “He’s not just using his size to plug holes. He knows how plays work, and he knows how to stop them.”
Wilfork didn’t play against Cincinnati in the Bengals’ 13-6 win over the Patriots in 2013 due to an Achilles injury. Last year he he had just one tackle despite being on the field for 47 of 52 snaps. But the Bengals fell behind early and rarely ran the ball in the 43-17 loss to the Patriots.
Adding to the difficulty? Zeitler has a tender right ankle that forced him out of the Cleveland game after Browns nose tackle Danny Shelton fell on it on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Zeitler said the ankle is improving, but it limited his ability to practice this week.