We are at the mathematical halfway point of the Texans season, and the team sits at 2-6. It's funny how this weekly BATTLE-DRINK game, if you go back and look at each week, in an odd way sort of weaves the tapestry of the entire season. You can see how all the storylines and futility have evolved week to week just by reading the revolving squares each Friday.
Going all the way back to Week 1's board, you can see that the themes for the Chargers game were largely of the on-the-field/broadcast variety, a smattering of squares having to do with celebrations, statistics, on-air mentions and John McClain's Twitter feed.
As we head into Week 10 with the Texans taking on the Arizona Cardinals, all of a sudden we have squares devoted to Gary Kubiak's health, the jumbled running back roster, a quarterback non-controversy-that-some-people-are-trying-to-make-a-controversy, bullying in the Dolphins locker room, and John McClain's Twitter feed.
In other words, somewhere along the way the hope and renewal of the 0-0 record going into the season devolved into a multilayered 2-6 soap opera. The common ground for both?
BATTLE-DRINK will mess you up!
So here we go, into Week 10, and what appeared to be a manageable road win before the season (preseason line was Texans -3) now sees the Texans as a three-point underdog trying to keep their season on mathematical life support.
(Breaking Bad SPOILER ALERT in the next paragraph!)
So if the pundits are correct, this will mean another one of my favorite things seeing its tragic demise in the desert: first it was Hank Schrader and Sunday it could be the Texans' 2013 season.
All right, here's this week's BATTLE-DRINK overview:
B1: Arian Foster carry B2: Ben Tate carry B3: Ray Graham carry B4: Dennis Johnson carry B5: Deji Karim carry The running back situation is only slightly less messy than last week. We know that Arian Foster is still sitting out practice, now with a back issue. That is messy. However, we know that Ben Tate will play despite the banged-up ribs, and we know that Dennis Johnson will be active again after a debut on Sunday night where he showed good burst on his eight carries (36 yards). Ray Graham and Deji Karim stay on the BATTLE-DRINK board in the event Foster is deactivated and one of them steps into the breach.
As an aside, where are we now on the "alert level" for Arian Foster's physical well-being? In college, he dealt with injuries his whole time at Tennessee, then he came to Houston in 2009 and hardly played at all his rookie season. In fact, he was active for just the final four games of the year. He was fully healthy for 2010, easily his best season, but since then has either missed significant time (three games starting the 2011 season, multiple games now this season) or looked sluggish and less explosive (most of 2012). Is it a crazy hypothesis to think that Arian Foster just might be injury-prone and that his only fully healthy, active season (2010) was a result of essentially taking almost all of 2009 off from physical contact? Probably a question for a doctor.
I1: Gary Kubiak mention I2: Wade Phillips happy fist pump Of course, the big story surrounding the Texans this week has been the health of Gary Kubiak and how the team will handle his absence this Sunday. On Wednesday, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was named interim head coach (a role that he has played two times before to some critical acclaim, in New Orleans in 1985 after his old man was fired, and in Atlanta in 2003 for Dan Reeves) for the time being, although it sounds like Kubiak should be back for the Oakland game on November 17, barring any setbacks, as reported by John McClain.
Now, with Kubiak out convalescing, this is an opportunity for us to perhaps learn some of the nuances of what goes on on a daily basis over at Kirby, things that Kubiak would normally keep shielded from us in the media. Things like play calling! To that end, I think this was my favorite Twitter revelation of the Wednesday media sessions:
Rick Dennison said that Gary Kubiak has been off and on letting him call some plays for a while now. #Texans
— James Palmer (@JPalmerCSN) November 6, 2013
Word has it that Kubiak also lets Dennison drive sometimes, but just slow and in the driveway.
I3: Matt Schaub wearing-helmet shot One tendency these days for fans and media both is for us to take something we are seeing transpire on the sidelines, and then fill in the blanks on the background and dialogue, even though we have no clue on either. We saw it earlier in the football season when everyone assumed that Johnny Manziel was "ignoring" an angry Kevin Sumlin on the sidelines after Manziel picked up a 15-yard penalty (Sumlin said that wasn't the case). This past Sunday, we all watched Matt Schaub stand by himself on the sidelines with his helmet on, blankly staring at the field. Here's how the breakdown on that image went:
FANS/MEDIA NARRATIVE: "Look at Schaub....all by himself...his teammates must hate him, he must hate his teammates, he must hate LIFE, he must hate Case Keenum, he's selfish, oh and why does he have his helmet on?!? LOSER!!"
POSSIBLE (Likely?) ACTUAL TRUTH: "Schaub was listening to the play calls through the helmet transmitter, was standing down at the end of the bench to get the best view of what was going on on the field, and he actually DID go interact with Keenum and the offense when they were on the sidelines."
For purposes of BATTLE-DRINK, it doesn't matter what Schaub's doing on the sideline. We just need the blank stare on our television screens. N2: Keenum described as "scrappy" or "gamer" N4: Keenum 25+ yard completion Assuming that there's not an eight-game winning streak on the horizon, the story for the rest of the season will be the quarterback position, the growth of Case Keenum and what that all means to the Texans' draft in 2014. One thing we've learned about Keenum in the last two weeks is that he can throw the ball down the field:
Case Keenum and Philip Rivers are the only QBs this season to have 5 or more completions of 25+ yards in separate games this season. #Texans
— James Palmer (@JPalmerCSN) November 6, 2013
Seriously, every pass down the field to Andre Johnson will result in an emotional war going on in my head -- simultaneous joy over the play itself clashing with anger over the fact that Andre has been saddled with noodle arms at quarterback his whole career. Let's just move along...
N5: "Honey Badger" mention Want a metaphor for the seasons of each of these two teams? The Cardinals' 2013 third round draft pick from LSU was Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu. The Texans' 2013 third round draft pick from LSU was Sam Montgomery. How's that taste, Texan Fan?
G1: Randy Bullock made PAT G2: Randy Bullock made field goal G3: Randy Bullock missed field goal G4: Randy Bullock fake field goal G5: Randy Bullock eats a sandwich If this were any other NFL team, I'd say, "Well, this is it for Randy Bullock. His job is on the line this weekend. He's got to make every kick, so we'll see where it goes!" The thing is, this is the Texans, where for certain players it feels like the team is run more like a family business, a mom-and-pop store where Bullock can just be the "idiot son" who they give an office job to. The only problem is he's not in an office job, he's in a role where he is deciding the end of close games.
And actually, if this were any other NFL team, Bullock probably would have been cut already.
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O1: John McClain tweets "wretched" O2: John McClain tweets "pathetic" O3: John McClain tweets "Richie Incognito" O4: John McClain tweets "thug, punk, loser" O5: John McClain bullies a Twitter follower Blending the topic of the week in the league -- bullying and Richie Incognito -- with the column normally dedicated to John McClain. If McClain calls Incognito a "thug, punk and loser," you'll need to call in sick on Monday.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.