AFC SOUTH CHAMPIONS

Texans wrap up successful regular season with another grind-it-out win over Jags

Deshaun Watson (left) and Nick Martin lifted the Texans to victory. Bob Levey/Getty Images

It might not be the final result they were hoping for, but the Texans put a wrap on a successful regular season on Sunday.

The Texans took care of business in their finale, dispatching a hapless Jacksonville Jaguars team 20-3 in typical grind-it-out fashion. The Texans defense locked down a bad offense and the game was never really in doubt.

The end result is the Texans finish with an 11-5 record, the best of the Bill O'Brien era. They win the AFC South for the third time in the last four years and will host a first-round playoff game next week against a familiar foe - Tennessee or Indianapolis.

They were unable to clinch a first round bye, but considering they started the season 0-3, the season has to be considered a good one, and now attention turns to the playoffs.

So what is the ceiling? Their first-round matchup will be tough, but that's the playoffs. A win there and they will head to a familiar place - New England - where the season has ended for them several times in the past.

But it is not ridiculous to think at some point they could pull off a victory in Foxboro. Deshaun Watson is clearly healthy and when teaming with DeAndre Hopkins gives them a fighting chance against anyone. Watson almost willed the Texans to victory in Philadelphia last week, and turned in a workmanlike effort in the win over Jacksonville. He completed 25 of 35 for 234 yards and added another 66 yards rushing with a touchdown. Hopkins was once again spectacular, with 12 catches for 147 yards going up against one of the best corners in the NFL, Jaylen Ramsey. Watson once again did not turn the ball over.

The negatives? Watson again took too many sacks. The Jaguars got to him six times and pressured him on several others. Many times, Watson's sacks are on him, but the bulk Sunday came from shaky offensive line play.

The halftime commentators made a good point; those negative plays will hurt against teams that can score. And that is what awaits the Texans in the playoffs.

The old concerns will be there, too. The offensive line just is not good enough to hold up against a quality defensive front. The Texans will have to overcome that to make a deep playoff run.

While the Texans corners played well on Sunday without Jonathan Joseph, better teams with better receivers and quarterbacks will likely feast on them.

The Texans were better than the past two weeks, but still were not great in the running game other than Watson, as Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue combined for 68 yards on 20 carries. When they run the ball effectively, they can compete with anyone. But the running backs have not been good for almost a month.

However, those are issues for next week and potentially beyond. On Sunday, the Texans wrapped up a nice season and won an AFC South that is no longer a joke.

The AFC itself is now there for the taking. Are the Texans good enough? Probably not, but they are in with a chance.

After that 0-3 start to the season, that is quite the accomplishment.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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