JOHN GRANATO

Hate to say I told you so. No I don't. The Texans are good. Damn good

Deshaun Watson and the Texans are channeling an Oilers team that won 11 in a row. Matt Patterson/Houston Texans

A month ago the Texans were at the halfway point of the season. They had won five straight games. I wrote on this very website that they would breeze through the rest of the schedule unbeaten and be the top seed in the AFC. They are four games away from that.

To get there of course the Texans will have to win out but they will also need the Chiefs to lose twice. That’s not out of the realm of possibility. They’ve got the Ravens this week followed by the Chargers, at the Seahawks and home for the Raiders. The Ravens have the league’s best defense and a weapon no one else has in Lamar Jackson. The Chargers have been playing as well as anyone and the Seahawks are playing well and own arguably the best home field advantage. The Raiders are the Raiders but that’s a rivalry game and you never know.

The Patriots have to lose once. They go to Miami this week where they historically struggle late in the year and they have to go to Pittsburgh next week. That’s never easy. If they haven’t lost by then they won’t. Their last two are at home against the Jets and Bills. Two gimmies.

I’ve heard over and over how the Texans are in the second tier of AFC hierarchy. There’s the Chiefs and the Patriots then the Texans, Chargers and Steelers.

Why is that? Why is a team that’s got the longest win streak in the league thought to be a second tier team?

The answer keeps coming back one thing: Bill O’Brien.

I suppose that’s fair.

In his four-plus seasons with the Texans it’s tough to pinpoint a signature win. The Raiders playoff victory rings a little hollow. Connor Cook was their starter. It was the first time in NFL history that a quarterback made his first career start in the playoffs. It showed.

O’Brien lost his other two playoff games.

In 2015 the Texans went into Cincinnati and beat an 8-0 Bengals team on Monday Night Football. It wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty. Brian Hoyer and T.J. Yates put up 10 points but that was enough to beat the Red Rifle, Andy Dalton. The Bengals went on to win 12 games that year but lost in their only playoff game as they are wont to do.

In 2016 the Texans beat the Chiefs in the second week of the season. The Chiefs went on to win 12 games that year but lost their only playoff game to the Steelers.

Last year the Texans put up 57 on the Titans who went on to the second round of the playoffs but they were still the Titans, not exactly NFL royalty.

This year’s win over Dallas is looking better and better. The Cowboys are 7-5 now, leading the NFC East and it’s always good to beat those people. At the time it didn’t look like either team would be considered very good at any point this season. Times have changed.

The Saints had a 10 game win streak that ended against those Cowboys last Thursday. It’s cliche but on any given Sunday (or Thursday) you can lose in the NFL so to win nine in a row is something of an accomplishment. And like it or not Bill O’Brien is the guy who got you there.

Whether it’s his postgame demeanor, his conservative late game play calling, his clock management, his flag gaffes or the hole in his chin, there’s a reason that Bill O’Brien has not won this city over.

He won me over a couple of weeks ago with this quote.

“I think Thanksgiving is awesome. It’s football. It’s turkey. It’s stuffing. It’s a couple of Coors Lights and watch some football.”

That’s a man I can trust.

But will we be saying that about him this postseason? We’ll get a preview of what that’ll be like this last month. The Colts’ backs are against the wall after that disaster in Jacksonville last week. This Sunday’s game will not be easy. The Jets are the Jets. The Texans should win that one. But then they’ve got to go to Philly who may be playing for their playoff lives. Now that will be a signature win, maybe O’Brien’s biggest ever. If things play out right, it could mean a Texans playoff bye, the organization’s first.

That would be huge.

Of course it could all fall apart. They could lose these last four and finish right where almost everyone thought they would: 9-7.

That’s not going to happen. Bill O’Brien and this team have turned a corner. They’re better than you want to give them credit for. They’re as good as any team in the AFC. That’s right. They’re as good as the Chiefs. They can beat them.

There are two reasons why. They can get after the quarterback and make a young guy look bad (see Baker Mayfield last week) and they have number 4. While DeShaun hasn’t been other worldly like I thought he’d be coming into this season, he’s been pretty darned good. And he saves his best for the biggest games.

This team has turned a corner. It’s about time this fanbase did. You younger readers won’t remember the 11 straight Oilers wins to close out the 1993 season. This city was on fire. All everyone could talk about was that Oilers team. Of course they disappointed us all with a loss to Joe Montana and the Chiefs but it was still one helluva ride.

This one; not so much. I’ve never seen the stadium emptier than at the start of the Monday night game against the Titans. I know it was a work and school day but that was a huge game. The stadium filled up but this isn’t the Rockets. People should be in their seats for the start of  Texans games.

We only get two, maybe three calls a show about the Texans. Maybe.

Come on people. Where’s the excitement for a nine game win streak?

We’re not known for being a great sports town but I’ve always said that this city will get behind a team if we think it’s got a chance to win it all. We have for the Rockets and Astros.

Time to get behind this Texans team. It can go where no Houston pro football team has gone before: The Super Bowl.

That’s right. I said it.  

If not it’s still a great building block season, kind of like the ‘15 Astros. They got to the postseason but just weren’t ready to win it yet. That would be fine. It gave them that experience they took advantage of two years later.

It feels like there’s been that kind of culture change with these Texans. Games they would have lost in the past they are winning now and that’s all that matters. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Remember: all’s well that ends well and these games have been ending well.

And this team looks like it’s built to last. With Brian Gaine calling the draft shots now it just feels different. They actually found three third round draft picks who can play; Justin Reid, Martinas Rankins and Jordan Akins. In years past they cut their third rounders before the season started. Let’s see what he can do with first and second round picks.

All in all this is turning into a great season. Let’s put the 0-3 start behind us. I know that’s still a wound that won’t heal for a lot of fans.

Get over it people. This team is 9-3.

Let’s start acting like it.



 

Every-Thing Sports

Positions to watch at Texans training camp

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Football season is finally upon us. We've waited since the Super Bowl ended (or longer for those who eject after their team is eliminated) for another taste of football. The offseason has been tumultuous for the Texans as they fired their general manager, franchised their enigmatic for number one overall pick, failed to draft the best player at their biggest position of need, and didn't sign any top flight talent in free agency.

Training camp starts on Thursday July 25 for the Texans. This is a team that went 11-5 and won the AFC South last year. People out there are expecting them to win the division again, repeat that 11-5 record or better, or some are expecting them to possibly challenge for a Super Bowl berth. I, however, am a bit more reserved in my expectations. I can see an 8-8 type of season, or a 10-6 season. That will depend on how some key positions perform. Usually there are a few players and/or positions to look out for every camp. Here's a look at some positions (and players) that will make or break the Texans' season:

Offensive Line

The Texans missed on Andre Dillard when the Eagles swooped in front of them and drafted the best tackle prospect in the draft at the pick in front of them. They followed that up with drafting Tytus Howard with their first round pick and Max Scharping with the second of their second round pick. Signing Matt Khalil, an injury prone left tackle that once had All-Pro ability, did very little to ease fears. If Deshaun Watson is to avoid another 60+ sack season, the OL will have to improve greatly.

Edge Rusher

With Jadeveon Clowney out until he signs his franchise tender, and Whitney Mercilus in a contract year, expect this position to be hotly contested as well. Not only are guys going to get reps with Clowney out until hr signs the franchise tag then reports, and Mercilus competing for his livelihood as well, not only will other guys get valuable reps, but some may get a chance to shine and prove why they may be worthy of more time..

Wide Receiver

After DeAndre Hopkins, there's a logjam of a bunch of guys at receiver. Will Fuller and Keke Coutee need to prove themselves worthy of being the number two and slot receivers on this team. Other guys may want to shoot their shots as neither of the aforementioned guys have been able to firmly establish themselves in their positions. Somebody has to step up in these backup roles, or else the team will be drafting for another position of need in 2020.

Defensive Backs

Sure this team has Justin Reid coming off a promising year, but they let Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson leave via free agency. Jonathan Joseph is as old as I am, but he's coming back for another year. Bradley Roby is signed to a one year deal, but hasn't proved he's worth more in his time in Denver. Maybe one of the two rookies the Texans drafted will step up and prove themselves worthy? However it pans out, the position is one to watch all season long.

Tight Ends

Neither of the guys they drafted last year did much to separate themselves. Enter Kahale Warring. As an athletic third rounder selected this year, he's set to come in and give Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins some much needed competition. When there's a good tight end to occupy the middle of the field, it opens up more routes for the wide receivers, and gives Watson more targets. If any of these guys can step up, this pass game has a chance to be pretty good.

Running Back

Yes, Lamar Miller is coming back, so is D'Onta Foreman. However, one is a veteran who hasn't proved he's capable of carrying the load for a real competitive team for a complete season, and the other is coming off a serious injury. Nothing was added to this position this offseason in terms of adding competition. Therefore, the team believes in these two guys being able to get it done. Also note that valued backup Alfred Blue was not retained. Losing him means more to your special teams, but having a guy like that as a backup added to the depth of the position.

i may sound down on this team, but I have my reasons.Seeing the way they've operated over the course of their history makes me extremely skeptical. Add that to the fact that they're going about it with a general manager by committee, and it ups the level of difficulty tenfold. If they should happen to catch lightening in a bottle two years in a row, I'll be the first to admit I'm wrong, but I could see another disappointing season ahead. I'd love nothing more than to admit I'm wrong, but this team has given me very little to be excited about. If you want to wear your battle red and deep steel blue fan glasses, you have your right to be wildly optimistic. I, however, tend to look at things more objectively and see this team taking a step back from what they did last year. These five position groups will go a long way into proving me right or proving me wrong.

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