The Houston Texans are on their well-deserved bye week, following their 19-17 win over the Denver Broncos. The win over the Broncos was Houston's 6th straight, and they look to keep their charge towards the playoffs going when they resume play November 18th at Washington. The Texans win streak has caused quite the buzz from whether or not they can win out, to whether this squad is legit enough to contend for a championship. Let's take a look inside the numbers, as well as how the rest of the year will go down.
11/18 AT Washington
The main concern for the Texans will be how they get everything cranked back up after the bye. Houston has been on a roll, so could having a week off slow their momentum? Over franchise history, Houston is 7-9 following their bye week,
My Thoughts: The Redskins are dealing with a barrage of injuries to their offensive line this week, so there's a chance they will be trotting out almost an entirely new group against the Buccaneers. Houston's stout defense could possibly face a diminished Redskins offense, barring any new injury updates. If Washington is still depleted along their offensive line, we know JJ and the boys will be licking their chops.
Redskins quarterback Alex Smith does have history against the Texans, though he does not have Andy Reid coaching him, nor does Smith have the supporting cast he had with the Chiefs. In his regular season career against the Texans, Smith is 4-2 with 10TD's and 3INT's.
The Redskins are a solid 5-3 who could pose a challenge to the Texans, especially if Alex Smith can make plays with his legs and establish a rhythm, as well as Adrian Peterson having a monster day running the ball. The bye may slow down the Texans momentum a bit, but Watson's healthy and the defense is playing great. Houston may run away with the game, but knowing how all but one of their wins have been by one score, I think this one will be close.
11/26 Home against Tennessee
Following the matchup with the Redskins, the Texans have a three-game home stretch. Two of those games are against the Titans and Colts with the Browns sandwiched in the middle. What could possibly be better than a primetime game against the arch-rival Titans? The Titans handed the Texans one of their three losses, Week 2 behind Blaine Gabbert: 20-17.
Prediction: When referencing division matchups, numbers go out the window. It's all about pride, and if two teams are in contention, jockeying for playoff seeding. Having already lost to the Titans, if the Texans are going to wrap up the division, they must get the split. Houston is currently 6-3 overall, 2-1 inside the AFC South, and 5-2 against the AFC as a whole. Losing to the Titans again could give everyone in the division the belief that the division title is still attainable. The Titans are not an offensive juggernaut, but they do boast the NFL's number one scoring defense (I am intrigued to see how they fare in Foxboro.) Mike Vrabel has done a good job coaching the Titans, and it is always a battle when the Titans and Texans square off. Now, however, the Texans have more to gain this time around than Week 2. Houston grinds out their 8th straight, and this win essentially gives the Texans a vice grip on the division.
12/2 Home against Cleveland
Cleveland is a decent team led by rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, however, they are the most poorly-run organization in professional sports. Recently, the Browns not only fired head coach Hue Jackson but also offensive coordinator, Todd Haley. Cleveland is a team who is a couple of bad breaks in games away from being .500 (or even first place.)
Prediction: This game has trap tattooed all over it, and if the Texans come out lollygagging and let Cleveland believe they can snatch this game, Houston is doomed. However, since they are chasing the AFC South crown, along with chasing down the Chiefs and Patriots for the top two spots in the conference, this Texans team is mature enough to handle a lowly Cleveland team at home.
12/9 Home against the Colts
The Texans wrap up their three-game home stand against the team which ignited their win streak. The Colts stormed all the way back from 18 points down to go to overtime, ultimately coming up short. The over-analyzed play call from Colts head coach, Frank Reich, could have resulted in a tie, had he punted rather than electing to go for it on 4th down. I still believe Reich going for it was the right call: Luck was on a roll, and the issue was more of a matter of execution. The Colts did not execute the play, and the Texans won the game. The Colts right now are 3-5, and their postseason chances hang on the next two games as they face the Jaguars and Titans.
Prediction: Whether the Colts are still in the race or not when they face Houston, they have Luck back; as long as he is healthy, the Colts are a team to watch out for. Like the first meeting, this game could become another shootout. The Texans are much better now, and defensively are one of the best in the league; Watson will outlast Luck at home and Houston gets the sweep.
12/15 AT the Jets
Here is something no one is accustomed to: a Saturday game in the NFL. Like the matchup with Cleveland, this game is yet another trap. Facing a bad team with a rookie quarterback, knowing a matchup on the road against the defending champion Eagles follows, the Texans maturity will be tested. The question will be, can the Texans avoid overlooking the Jets?
Prediction: Playing on Saturday will throw both teams off a bit. For Houston, if the streak is still intact, the top two seeds should still be in play. With that in mind, Houston will come out and handle their business and should be 11-3 heading into the final two games.
12/23 AT the Eagles
Two days before Christmas, we get to unwrap a matchup with the defending champions. Though the Eagles are not as hot as they were a year ago, they still are a force to be reckoned with. This game is more of a Bill O'Brien playoff tune-up game, as he goes against Doug Pederson, who is one of the best coaches in the game. O'Brien will either face Andy Reid or Bill Belichick in the playoffs, assuming the Texans get there. How he fares against Pederson in a hostile environment, two games before the playoffs, will be a telling sign of what could happen in January.
Prediction: Two days before Christmas, on the road, against the defending champions, the Texans are going to not only have to play their best game, but also coach their best game. The division by now will probably be wrapped up for Houston, and if the Texans are still within reach for the AFC's top two seeds, this will be a big game for them. Honestly, I think the streak ends; as good as the Texans are, the Eagles will probably be needing this game more for their playoff hopes. Depending on how the Chiefs and Patriots are playing, this loss could guarantee Houston plays Wild Card weekend.
12/30 Home against the Jaguars
At this point, this game is probably meaningless for Houston. If it isn't, something went very wrong for the Texans. For the Jaguars, depending on what transpires in the next few weeks, this could be a game they need for a wild-card spot, or they could simply be playing for pride. If, for some reason the top two seeds in the AFC are still up for grabs, then the Texans need to do everything they can to win. Would the Texans rather go on the road and freeze their buns off in Foxboro or Arrowhead? Or would the Texans prefer to be warm and toasty, and let their fans blow the roof off of NRG? The only way starters play significantly for Houston is for the chance to be the number one or two seed.
Prediction: The outcome of this game simply comes down to what playoff scenarios are on the line for both teams. Before the season started, I predicted the Texans would go 12-4 and I am sticking to it. Houston will go to the playoffs having their best season under Bill O'Brien. Whether they are a number 1, 2, 3, or 4 seed is yet to be determined.
Dez Bryant blowing his Achilles in his first practice as a Saint is yet another reminder in the NFL to never take anything for granted. On paper, the only game outside the division Houston could, and likely will, lose is against the Eagles. Barring anything catastrophic, of course, this team has a similar feel to 2011 where things are starting to click. This time around, I hope the Texans can remain healthy enough to see where this ride ends.