All the reasons the Texans still have something to play for

Let's look at this from another angle. Composite image by Jack Brame.

As if everything we've dealt with in 2020 so far hasn't been hard enough, Houston sports fans have a little more that they're dealing with. We've had murder hornets, Tiger King, COVID-19, social unrest, election year, Kobe died, and the Olympics were postponed among other major events due to COVID-19. Talk about a kick in the crotch!

Add to that the fact that Houston sports fans have had to endure the Astros cheating scandal and its fallout with manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow getting fired, Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni not re-signing, and general Darryl Morey stepping down, but the Texans finally liberated themselves of head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien. All three major pro sports franchises got rid of their head coaches and general managers. Pretty sure this has never happened in one city before.

We all know football is king in Texas. So when your team starts 1-6 while looking like they can't fight their way out of a wet paper bag if armed with an AR15, you don't have much hope. I feel your pain Texans fans. I've been there as a fan before. The uneasy feeling of hopelessness that could last for another couple seasons potentially cripples you mentally. Your fandom is called into serious question. Others openly challenge your commitment to your team when they obviously have their priorities messed up because they allow a modern-day Christian version of Littlefinger to take control of day to day operations.

So I know you're asking yourselves: why in the hell would Jermaine think there's still something to play for this season?!? I'm so glad you asked! There are a few reasons I think fans, and the team itself, shouldn't eject on this season just yet.

For starters, Deshaun Watson is your franchise quarterback. He's only 25 years old, in the midst of his fourth season, and was just signed to an extension. Paying him what they did, they need to get the most out of him at all times. This means fine-tuning and developing his game in order to maximize his output while he's under contract. I don't care who's still on staff, developing Watson, and getting him to realize his potential is the top priority.

Shedding salaries for mid to late round draft picks will only serve to add potential depth to a team that needs frontline starting talent in order to change. Sure, some of those picks can be used to get said starters, but do we trust this regime in its current form to make those selections? While I'd normally be all for trading guys and acquiring more draft picks this team so desperately lacks, I'm leery on it yielding the return of investment needed.

There's also the younger guys on this roster that need playing time. Evaluating the younger talent on this team is huge. Cheap labor is how teams build and keep the salary cap under control. With all the overpaid guys under contract, playing and seeing what young/cheap guys can do is valuable. There are guys from the last couple drafts that could be busts, or could be misused while still having potential.

There's also the remote outside shot of going on a run and getting the seventh and final playoff spot in the AFC. As of this writing, the Texans are about four to five games out of that final playoff spot. Their remaining opponents have a combined 30-26 record, so it won't be easy. However, they have a few winnable games and could pull off a run like they did a couple years ago. Stranger things have happened. Will this team pull itself together and be able to make people care again this season? That remains to be seen. Let's see how it goes and take it game by game. The trade deadline will give us a peek into their mindset.

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Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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