THE PLAYOFF PICTURE

What has to happen for the Texans to get a top 2 seed in the AFC

Deshaun Watson and the Texans need to win out and hope for help. Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Four games remain this season and the Texans are on a nine game winning streak. They currently hold the third spot in the AFC and can lock up the division with a win at home against the Colts on Sunday and a Titans loss to the Jaguars. While those are both plausible scenarios nothing is guaranteed. Even if it doesn’t happen this weekend, it’s highly likely that they win the division in the end. But if they really want make this the most improbable season, they can earn the top overall seed by winning all four remaining games. Which is also a plausible scenario.

Houston’s remaining games are the Colts, at the Jets, at the Eagles, and at home in Week 17 against the Jaguars. The Colts just got blanked against the Jacksonville and you better believe Bill O’Brien is watching that film closely to see how he can limit Andrew Luck and his potent passing attack. The Jets are still the Jets, but the Eagles might be the biggest challenge. The Super Bowl Champions are not what they were last year, but they still have a chance to sneak into the playoffs and a home game against the Texans is a game they will get up for. The Jaguars defense may have awoken this past weekend but offensively they don’t have much; they managed only six points in their shutout of the Colts.

The Texans defense has been making big, timely plays and will have to continue that trend. They will also need to keep the running game going. Controlling the clock and wearing down opposing defenses is a sure fire way to win out. All of their remaining opponents are at .500 or below, giving the Texans plenty of film to showcase weaknesses. So far, Bill O’Brien has game planned and coached well enough to exploit their last nine opponents. Four more would surely earn him coach of the year.

They still need some help to get to the top. The Patriots currently sit in the second spot with a matching record and already hold a head to head victory over Houston. They will need to lose a game for the Texans to leap-frog them. Their schedule is a little light with games against all three of their divisional opponents remaining. If you know anything about the AFC East, the Patriots have dominated all of them in the Brady/Belichick era.

The best chance Houston has is New England’s Week 15 road game in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are barely holding on to the lead in the AFC North and will need every win they can get to hold off Baltimore. A Patriots loss would help Houston’s case for at least a playoff bye week.

They also need the top seeded Chiefs to lose a divisional game or earn two losses in the final four games. They have the toughest remaining schedule between these three teams. They are at home against the Ravens this week and the Chargers the next. Baltimore is on a three game winning streak and has a solid defense so a win is no guarantee. The Chargers are only one game behind them in the AFC West and a win would make sure they have a shot to win the division at the end of the season. They finish their tough three-game stretch on the road against the Seahawks, who are fighting for the last Wild Card spot. Seattle is one of the toughest places to win on the road and Russell Wilson is showing why he’s a high caliber quarterback. They finish the season at home against a Raiders team whose only motivation might be to lose and secure the first overall pick in the draft. I’ll mark that a win for Kansas City.

The Chiefs were able to win their first game without running back Kareem Hunt, but that was against the aforementioned Raiders. It will be different when they roll into the next three games with only back-ups leading the ground game. Houston’s best chance comes once again in Week 15 when the Chargers come to Arrowhead. If Phillip Rivers can lead his team to victory the top seed will be visible from NRG Stadium.

The Texans can secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs by winning their last four games and getting help from the Patriots and Chiefs. One loss is needed by the Patriots and the Chiefs need to lose a divisional game or two games overall. Week 15 will be crucial, as the Chargers visit the Chiefs Thursday night and the Patriots go to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon. The Texans play on Saturday that week so fans in Houston can watch each game closely and will the Chargers, Texans, and Steelers to victory.


 

Slow to make big moves hasn't equaled a drop in potential for Texans

Texans are better despite slow free agency

The Texans are better today than when the season ended. It isn't a huge improvement, and there is room for far more improvement, but they're better.

Despite some people's frustration with the Texans not making moves they really haven't missed out on much, the draft is where they will truly improve, and people aren't remembering how good, or bad, they were last season.

Tyrann Mathieu is not $20 million better than Tashaun Gipson. I don't even believe Mathieu was the right type of safety for the Texans. He was a mismatch problem on bigger players, specifically tight ends where Gipson thrives. Mathieu was the third best safety on the team last season not playing as well as Kareem Jackson when he was at safety or the total body of Justin Reid who impressed in his rookie season. While the leadership aspect can't be denied, the Texans praised repeatedly the locker room personality Mathieu brought, the team doesn't lack for leaders.

Gipson has had more success in recent years statistically than Mathieu and plays a different style. You'll notice far less tackles and no sacks to Gipson's stat line. He will be asked to cover more than Mathieu was and his success in recent seasons shows he can do that well. He hasn't had to clean up a lot of messes in the Jaguars secondary, Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye held their own, his experience playing deep will hopefully help handle the lack of top talent at cornerback for the Texans.

Speaking of cornerback, if that is where Kareem Jackson was going to play for the Texans in 2019 then there is no loss whatsoever in seeing him leave. He was not good as a corner last year after a really solid start to the year as a safety. Bradley Roby is more physically gifted and took a prove-it deal to try to hit the market with more buzz than this year. I would have preferred Jackson sticking around as a safety but alas the Texans didn't seem to see his value there.

Wholesale changes on the offensive line did almost nothing to improve it last season so I am not sure why some fans and media have desired that again. Yes, they shouldn't have been outbid on Roger Saffold (Titans) by a division rival who has invested greatly in their offensive line. No, Trent Brown (Raiders) and his bloated contract wasn't the answer at left tackle. Matt Paradis is coming off a broken leg at the center spot though he would have been an upgrade at center.

It is clear help on the line is coming via the draft, a deep one along the line might I add. With three picks in the top two rounds there will be opportunities to find players to push Nick Martin, Senio Kelemete, and Julién Davenport and it isn't out of the question. Seantrell Henderson despite his new contract is pushed by a rookie as well. This is a fine plan as only Nick Martin was a top round pick of any of the Texans current offensive linemen.

Also, this team won 11 games last season. Don't let a disappointing playoff performance skew how this team played. Deshaun Watson is going to improve and that is the most important thing about this team. He won't take as many hits as he did last season with draft investment and improvement of players on the roster. The rookie tight ends have a year of seasoning under their belt. D'Onta Foreman and Keke Coutee should be healthy and eventually Will Fuller will return. The defense returns or has replaced key figures.

Acting like this is a team that had to spend money just because they had cap space isn't a smart way to look at this team. Typically a team sucks when they have this much cap space, the Texans didn't fall into that category. Is there still room for improvement? No doubt. There's also room to find multiple bargains, be a destination for a trade post-draft, and pay Clowney. Relax, this is a long offseason. The Texans are better today than last week.

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