At 9-3, the Texans are one win away from surpassing the highest number of regular season wins in the O’Brien era. (Yeah, the guy has managed to take them to the playoffs twice with 9 wins.) With Indianapolis, New York Jets, Philadelphia, and Jacksonville left on the schedule, and two of those games at home, it’s looking like the Texans should finish anywhere from 13-3 to 11-5.
I find myself constantly comparing this team to the 2012 Texans that went 12-4 under Gary Kubiak, a man who I still wish was the head coach of this team. The two squads could not be more different on offense, but both defenses ran highly talented 3-4 defenses. The 2012 offense could put up points with Matt Schaub under center, Arian Foster at running back (with Ben Tate raising hell behind him) and all-pro Andre Johnson, rookie Deandre Hopkins, pro-bowl tight end Owen Daniels, and an offensive line that was considered the best in franchise history, but the offense struggled during late season and the defense was worthless against elite quarterbacks.
The only elite quarterbacks Houston has faced this year are Tom Brady (26-39, 277 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Andrew Luck (40-62, 464 yards, 4 touchdowns)—two of the better quarterback performances allowed this season by the Texans defense.
Are the Texans set up for the same fate in the playoffs? It seems many elite quarterbacks could be waiting—Roethlisberger, Mahomes, Brady, Rivers, and maybe Luck—with Lamar Jackson/Joe Flacco and Marcus “literally awful” Mariota as the only outside-looking-in prospects.
That fact that the Texans won’t truly be tested—outside of Luck—since week 1 leaves me more curious than concerned. Many, including myself, say the Texans haven’t been tested yet, but the other night I heard an excellent point made on the ESPN postgame recap after the Texans beat the Titans: The Texans will hold up because they’ve already been tested. They were tested when they lost their first three games and refused to give up. They banded together, fixed the issues, and started winning games by any means necessary.
This point is hard to argue. To take three straight losses (two as the betting favorites) and come back to win nine games in a row is incredible in any professional sport. This was a team that had high expectations from their fans and owner, and when they were 0-3, many had given up on them. Luckily, they never gave up on themselves, and they only looked ahead—never back.
When I ponder if this is the best Texans squad of all time, the answer will be blank until the playoffs roll around and this Texans unit, from the coaching to the players, is tested. I know for sure that this is the best Texans defense of all time—maybe not statistically, but the defensive unit has an it factor and confidence that I’ve never seen before. I trust this defense much more than the defense that was embarrassed by Aaron Rogers and Tom Brady (twice) on national television in 2012.
So what about the offense? Can they bail this team out of a hole if the defense is tested? We haven’t really seen the offense under pressure during this nine-game win streak. I know they run the two-minute drill before halftime successfully, and Watson seems to have a good grip on where his other options are aside from Hopkins. But the Texans’ offensive success relies heavily on Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue running the ball well. What happens if the Texans find themselves down 21-0 in the first half and unable to move the ball on the ground? Only then will we know if this is the best Texans team to date, or if their shadow is bigger than their heart.
All stats from nflgsis.com