The Pallilog

Resilient but inconsistent Texans could hang another AFC South banner - or fall apart completely

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Give the 9-5 Texans their due. They're no super team and they're not a superbly coached team, but it is a resilient team. Off the Broncos debacle, taking down a previously hot Titans team in Tennessee was strong. It has the Texans now at least 90 percent likely to win their division for a sixth time in nine years. Four times in six years under Head Coach Bill O'Brien.

I poke fun at the "cute little AFC South Division Champ" banners they keep winning. They have rung increasingly hollow during the O'Brien era with embarrassing home playoff losses to the Chiefs and Colts and the lone win over a Raider squad down to its third string quarterback. Still, four division crowns in six years is proof positive that the football operation, and O'Brien don't stink.

The Texans have beaten the Chiefs, the Patriots, and the Titans. And have lost, at home, to the Panthers and Broncos. A ceiling of mediocre to pretty good at some point should not be accepted as the top end achievement. There seems a very simple standard for judging this Texans season a success. Without a home playoff win Wild Card weekend it's not a successful season. Getting smashed at Baltimore again in the Divisional Round wouldn't make them "losers," but it sure would make them posers not real contenders. Winning AFC South titles means nothing towards real contention.

The only way the Texans can miss the postseason is by losing at Tampa, having the Titans beat the Saints Sunday, then have the Titans come here and win the season finale. That is no impossibility. Maddeningly inconsistent teams can lose to anybody, anywhere.

Bucs on a roll

The Buccaneers have won four in a row to get to 7-7. Grade the streak on a curve. They've beaten the Falcons, Jaguars, Colts, and Lions. Combined record for those four: 19-36-1. The Bucs have two Pro Bowl wide receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. In a huge break for the Texans they're both out with hamstring injuries.

Bucs' quarterback Jameis Winston has had an interesting season. After an inept start he has come on like gangbusters. Winston is 427 passing yards over the last two games from posting just the 12th 5000 yard season in NFL history. Six quarterbacks have done it once, Drew Brees has done it five times. The past two games Winston aired it out for 456 and 458 yards, becoming the first QB ever to go 450+ in consecutive games. Surprising (yes?) that Marino, Moon, Manning, somebody hadn't done it previously.

Only NFL MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson has thrown more touchdown passes this season (33 to 30), no one is within five interceptions of the 24 Winston has thrown. The last quarterback to throw even 22 picks in a season was Eli Manning in 2013. If the Ravens clinch the top AFC playoff seed this weekend, Jackson certainly sits out the regular season finale. That would give Winston a chance to wind up leading the NFL in both TD passes and INTs. Name the last guy to do that? Answer below in Buzzer Beaters.

Quirky stat pairing: On their 14 opening drives this season the Texans have mustered a pitiful total of three points. Jameis Winston has thrown an interception on five of the Bucs' 14 opening drives.

Rockets with a big one

What a wild ride of a Rockets' win at the Clippers Thursday night. Early in the third quarter they were down 16. A 40-12 eruption put them up 12 in the fourth. The Clips then countered with a 24-6 run for a six point lead, before the Rockets closed with a finishing 14-5 kick to win 122-117. Russell Westbrook was a human tornado tearing through the Clippers for a season high 40 points. Interest in the Rockets is down, interest in the NBA is significantly down, but the Rockets are again very good. They passed the one third of the regular season completed milepost at 19-9, though their defense is still not of championship caliber. The Rockets have taken a page from the Texans' book of inconsistency. In the eight games before the Clippers, the Rockets faced seven bad teams and a really good Toronto team. They beat the Raptors in Canada, yet lost home games to the Kings and Pistons after their blown 22 point lead fiasco at San Antonio. Exasperating for die hard Rocket fans, but it's much better to have a team that has some confounding losses but shows a clear ability to beat elite teams than to be able to beat the scrubs but look like second class citizens versus the elite.

Buzzer Beaters


1. Brees led the NFL in 2012 with 43 TD passes and 19 INTs. 2. I have five musts for the 10 greatest NFL wide receivers of all-time list disclosed Friday night: Jerry Rice, Don Hutson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Cris Carter. 3. Worst places to get sent for a bowl game: Bronze-Mobile Silver-Montgomery Gold-Boise

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Everyone else is doing it! Composite image by Jack Brame.

Can a professional athlete come up with a worse excuse for getting caught using performance-enhancing drugs than blaming it on a doctor?

Fans would have more respect for a player if he said the dog ate his urine test results.

Texans wide receiver Will Fuller V (as in I'm taking the Fifth) and cornerback Bradley Roby have been suspended after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Both will sit out for the remaining five games of the 2020 season, plus the first game of the 2021 season.

There were many questions about Fuller heading into Year 5 of his NFL career. Up until 2020, his tenure in the NFL has been plagued with injuries, and some Texans fans clamored for him to be swapped before the 2020 trade deadline. Fuller was having his best season, and the Texans decided to keep him. In fact, Deshaun Watson said the team would've revolted if Fuller had been moved. In 11 games, Fuller has 53 receptions for 879 yards and eight touchdowns.

I'm going to cut Bradley Roby some slack because he took ownership for using a banned substance. He made it clear that it was his responsibility to know what is on the NFL's list of banned PEDs. He will probably have that list taped on his fridge the rest of his NFL career.

Fuller took a different approach, one that unfortunately resembles many other famous athletes' excuses for getting caught with PEDs; Blame a medical professional. Or somebody, anybody else.

Whether Fuller and Roby were receiving treatment from the same medical professional is unknown. More important, it's irrelevant. In 2020, how could athletes possibly blame a medical professional when a list of banned substances is hanging on the wall in every team's training room?

The answer is they shouldn't. Let's take a look at athletes with the worst excuses for juicing. Specifically for getting caught juicing.

Rafael Palmeiro (MLB) - Other than a physician or trainer, the only person more improbable to blame for a positive steroid test is your own teammate. When Palmeiro tested positive in 2005, he blamed a supposed B-12 shot (it wasn't B-12) administered by Baltimore Orioles Miguel Tejada.

Brian Cushing (NFL) - Cushing played his entire NFL career with the Houston Texans. Cushing's first positive test came in 2009. He had abnormally high levels of human chorionic gonadotropin, a human growth hormone that typically shows up in pregnant women. He later changed his excuse to "overtraining." He has since claimed the positive test was a result of a cancerous tumor. He tested positive for PEDs again in 2017.

Maria Sharapova (Tennis) - Sharapova claimed she never read an email which listed the banned substance, meldonium, she was caught taking.

Barry Bonds (MLB) - When Bonds tested positive for PEDs in 2000 and 2001, he put all of the blame on San Francisco Giants trainer Greg Anderson. Bonds said Anderson told him that he was using flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is not typically injected, and certainly doesn't lead to your hat size growing.

Lance Armstrong (Cycling) - Armstrong, after years of denial, admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs on an Opera Winfrey prime time special. His excuse? Every other cyclist was doing it. Oprah did not ask him if he would jump off the Brooklyn Bridge if the others did. How could anybody win seven Tour de France titles after surviving testicular cancer? They might as well have renamed the race Tour De Lance. His sad saga ended with him being stripped of his seven titles and banned for life.

Melky Cabrera (MLB) - Cabrera tested positive while playing for the San Francisco Giants in 2012. After his positive test, he paid a patsy $10,000 to create a fake website that sold fake products to try and fake his innocence. The FBI busted him and he served a real suspension.

LaShawn Merritt (Track & Field) - The famed American sprinter blamed his third positive steroid test on a testicular enlargement supplement called Extenze.

Petr Korda (Tennis) - Korda stated that his love for veal was the reason he tested positive for the steroid nandrolone. He went further saying he liked veal even more when the calf was injected with steroids. A scientist testified Korda would have to eat 40 calves every day for 20 years to equal the amount of nandrolone discovered in his system. Sounds like the Ivan Drago diet (from the first fight, when he killed Apollo Creed).

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