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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Texans fans had to expect some growing pains early on. Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

The Texans are currently winless on the 2022 season after their first two games. Being 0-1-1 isn't the worst result, but it isn't ideal. Not by a long shot. What compounds the problem is the fact that they were up 20-3 vs the Colts, and literally threw away opportunities against the Broncos. This team could easily be 2-0, or 0-2.

Some saw the 2022 season turning out differently. There was a group that saw this season as a chance to take a big step forward and possibly contend for one of the last playoff spots. Another section saw this as a second rebuild year and want to angle for high draft picks. Most were in between. Those people thought the team would be better than their four wins last year, but not anywhere near the playoff picture. 6-11 or 7-10 or somewhere in that range. Overall, the majority of folks thought improvement was on the horizon, with contending status in the near future.

Those folks are still correct despite the early results. Davis Mills seems more and more like he's not the answer at franchise quarterback. He has 15 games left in this season to prove he's worthy of a role moving forward. If he doesn't make it through the next 15 games as the starter, he's on the outs. If he makes it through, he will have proven himself worthy of at least a backup role. Perhaps he shows enough for the Texans to possibly get a late round pick from another team who may want to bring him in as a backup.

Nico Collins is going to be good. He's been working with Texans legend Andre Johnson on adding to his game. His size gives him a natural advantage. Working on those ball skills in order to win contested catches was a Johnson specialty. Collins has shown he wants to be better and is taking the steps necessary to achieve that goal.

Dameon Pierce should be RB1 for the next four to five years. However long he's healthy and remains productive, he should sit atop the depth chart. The only way I see that changing is if they find another back to add depth that outshines Pierce's already bright future. I can't wait to see him be more involved in the game plan from week to week. He had his career high in touches against the Broncos. He hasn't had that many touches since high school.

The defense has some gems as well. Derek Stingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre are going to be staples of the secondary. Stingley Jr. has had a rough go of it so far. He's got the talent and athleticism, but has to put it all together. Pitre has shown flashes of playmaking ability. He's also been out of place and messed up a bit. Once he learns the game, I feel sorry for the rest of the league. These two will be special. Throw in pass rusher Jonathan Greenard, and the makings for a solid defense are in place.

Finding guys in mid to late rounds is where teams traditionally build depth. With the Texans, they're building a foundation with those guys. Once you have a solid foundation, the frame can go up. Once that's done, you know the rest. General manager Nick Caserio has been very strategic at how he's choosing to build this team into a winner. With nine picks in the first three rounds in the next two drafts, a good cap situation, and a solidified corporate structure, I expect this team to start winning soon. This season isn't a waste. They're growing. It's like watching your kid learn to walk. They tumble and fall, but they get back up. Next thing you know, they're running everywhere they go, and you can barely catch them. Here's to the Texans running everywhere they go, especially to the playoffs.

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