Texans have easy road to top seed in AFC

Texans

Texans pass rushers Whitney Mercilus (59) and Antonio Smith (94)
reintroduce
themselves to Ravens QB Joe Flacco Sunday in Houston.

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HOUSTON, Texas – Like some oldtimers down here say ’bout things, if the Houston Texans aren’t the best team in the AFC, they’ll do ’til the best one gets here.

That’s a fact. A solid gold fact.

Matter of fact, if you scan the Texans’ schedule, it’s hard to see them losing more than three of their remaining nine games. If even three.

See for yourself. After a bye this week, 6-1 Houston plays Buffalo, at Chicago on a Sunday night, Jacksonville, at Detroit on U.S. Thanksgiving, at Tennessee, at New England on a Monday night, Indianapolis, Minnesota and at Indianapolis.

If the Texans lose only two of those games, they’ll finish 13-3. In that event, the only way they could be tied atop the AFC come January is if either the 5-2 Baltimore Ravens – on whom they opened a 43-13 can of whoop-ass on Sunday – or one of the AFC’s three-loss teams (New England, Pittsburgh, Miami, Denver or San Diego) wins out.

Uh, no.

And that’s just to wind up in a statistical tie with a 13-3 Houston. The Texans already hold the tiebreaker against Baltimore and Denver, and could get it against New England with a win over the Patriots in December.

Of all those teams, who’d be most likely to push the Texans? Probably New England and Denver. Just don’t bet on it.

The Patriots are 4-3. Outside of a season-opening win over Tennessee and a six-quarter stretch between the Buffalo and Denver games, when their offence appeared omnipotent, the Pats have had a tough time beating anybody.

Denver, similarly, has been life-and-death to defeat any team not named the Oakland Raiders.

As for the Ravens, their brutal 2012 schedule continues after this week’s bye. And given the condition of their hospital-ward defence, they’ll be fortunate to hold off the Steelers to win the AFC North.

So, barring the unforeseen, the Texans are in the clear to win homefield advantage in the AFC side of the NFL playoffs.

“We’re a very good football team – very good,” defensive end J.J. Watt said. “But we also know that we have to execute our assignments and do what we do, to not let last week happen again.”

By ‘last week,’ Watt means the Texans’ 42-24 loss to Green Bay. It took Houston only six-and-a-half days, however, to shake off that disappointing stumble against the NFC’s Packers.

“This (thrashing of Baltimore) shows what we’re capable of, and I think we need to do this every week,” Watt said.

Most weeks, with that schedule, they probably will.

The Bills, for instance, will come into Houston’s Reliant Stadium a week from Sunday with more holes in ’em than a horse trader’s mule.

The Texans have few holes. And they’re iddy-biddy ones.

Their offence seems to catch fire the moment their under-rated offensive line can create a bit of room for dynamic running back Arian Foster on a run of plays.

“That’s our whole scheme of offence,” centre Chris Myers told me after Sunday’s game. “If we establish the run, the play-actions (fake-run passes) open up.”

Then Houston quarterback Matt Schaub has his pick of receivers, it seems. And, Myers said, when the offensive line sees desperation creep in on the other side, well, the game becomes fun.

“Yeah, when you’re successful running the ball, and you get to the third and fourth quarter and they’re starting to throw different things at you, and you’re still able to establish the run, it’s a confidence booster for you for sure – and the other way for them.”

And so, with their confidence soaring higher than the top rows of their towering stadium, the Texans have two weeks to enjoy the view.

Maybe wide receiver Kevin Walter put it best in the festive Texans locker room on Sunday, when asked if his team is indeed the best in the AFC.

“In my mind, absolutely, yeah,” Walter said. “But that doesn’t mean anything. You can play well, and the next week you can be in the doghouse. That’s how this league works.”

And dogs that don’t hunt down here ain’t worth a plugged six-shooter.

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WHY MATT SCHAUB IS STILL IN ONE PIECE:

HOUSTON, Texas – Quarterback Matt Schaub had what he thought was a good idea.

But it was a bad, bad idea – and his longtime Houston Texans teammate, wide receiver Andre Johnson, told him so.

In the third quarter of Houston’s impressive 43-13 blowout of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Schaub got out in front on an end-around, and made like he was going to turn around and throw a block straight into hard-charging Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs.

But then Schaub must have remembered what Johnson had told him a while earlier.

“(He’d come) to me on the sideline and was like, ‘Hey, man, if they’re running back toward me, can I cut the guy coming at me?,” a chuckling Johnson said afterward. “And I’m like, ‘No, man. You can’t do that. Just get out of the way.’”

That’s exactly what Schaub did. That’s why his head is still on.

 

 

 

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