Texans/Bucs -- 4 Winners, 4 Losers (The "Goddammit, NOT Schaub!" Edition)
So, I was thisclose to hitting "SEND" on a post that would have openly discussed the Texans going 13-3 and getting home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. And then this:
Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has a significant foot injury that will force him to miss several weeks, according to coach Gary Kubiak.
All right, so time to reset expectations (probably more slightly than you'd think, at least for the regular season), rewrite my post, and try and figure all of this out (admittedly, probably a process for another post at another time, like Tuesday).
In the meantime, there are winners and losers to get to from yesterday's Texans game, from the weekend that was, and from some doctor's office this morning where the Texans' hopes and dreams for a special 2011 season were at the very least dealt a rock-hard body blow:
WINNERS 4. Tennessee Titans How prohibitive a favorite had the Texans become in the AFC South? Well, heading into this past weekend, the prop bet online for the Texans winning the division was "Texans -520, Field +300." Basically, in plain English, this amounts to the Texans having about an 85 percent chance of winning the division. Additionally, as of about an hour ago (right around the time Matt Schaub's foot was spilling its little secret), the Texans were tied for third in the entire league as an 8/1 shot to win the Super Bowl. Let me say that again -- the Texans were tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers as the third-likeliest team to win the football championship of the entire universe. The Steelers have won six Super Bowls; the Texans have finished above .500 once.
And now, Matt Leinart is their quarterback. Admittedly, the one and a half game lead the Texans have over the Titans all of a sudden doesn't feel quite as big. If you're Tennessee, now you've got a little something clicking with Chris Johnson putting up 130 yards and now the team ahead of you lost its quarterback. AFC South door, officially reopened. Slightly. (As in, the Texans are probably more like -300 to win the division.)
3. Johnathan Joseph To talk to people that follow the Bengals, what we are seeing from Joseph here in Houston is exactly what he was providing for Cincinnati the last few years -- leadership, shutdown skills and a very underrated physical presence from the cornerback spot. To talk to some of Joseph's teammates on the Texans, they will tell you that a huge reason the secondary is so productive this season is the tone Joseph sets and the experience he brings to what is still one of the youngest units on the team. To talk to me, well, I just like the way he scrambled Kellen Winslow's brain on a crossing route yesterday and created a Brian Cushing interception. Joseph is this season's best free-agent pickup anywhere in the league.
2. Derrick Mason When the Texans signed Mason prior to the Baltimore game, I was asked "Number of Mason receptions as a Texan, over/under 8." I took the under, and while he only has six in five games, perhaps I was selling him a little bit short. That said, props where they are due: Mason had a very underrated, cagey veteran play in the first quarter when he jarred a sure Aqib Talib interception loose on an ill-advised Matt Schaub floater down near the goal line. The play prevented a momentum-changing turnover and allowed the Texans to kick a field goal to go up 9-0 early in a game where a two-possession lead felt pretty safe, even that early. Of course, that play would never have been recognized for its headiness had it not been for.... 1. Gary Kubiak, Replay Challenge Guru In the last week, the topics with the highest number of Tweets Per Second on my personal timeline go like this:
1. Joe Paterno's firing at Penn State 2. Rick Perry's gaffe in the Republican presidential debate 3. Gary Kubiak winning a second straight replay challenge
That's not me being a wiseass, that's the God's honest truth. (Keep in mind, I follow lots of Texans media members and fans, but still.) Of course, Kubiak's replay success ended in grand fashion when he got a 15-yard penalty for challenging a play where only the replay booth itself can issue a challenge. THAT was an awesome return to form for the coach, kind of like Shooter in Hoosiers going from drawing up the picket fence one game to stumbling on the court completely shitfaced in the middle of a game like a week later. Nor surprising, but sad nonetheless.
LOSERS 4. Raheem Morris For the last three or four years, seasons where the Texans have entered the season with expectations of making the playoffs, inevitably the season has been derailed by a four-game losing streak, punctuated by soul-pulverizing last-second ineptitude, bad luck or a combination of the two. One thing that many media members (myself included) have espoused is the Texans, for better or worse, have never quit on Gary Kubiak. To a skeptical and downtrodden fan base, the observation rings hollow and to the most cynical fan, it rings disingenuous. But I think all you need to do is watch yesterday's Bucs to see what "quit" looks like. It looks like that -- shoddy tackling, turnovers, missed assignments, bad penalties, 37-9. THAT'S "quit." For all the Texans have done poorly in the last three seasons, they've never looked like that.
3. AFC South teams outside of Indianapolis The Colts are really getting the hang of this whole "Suck for Luck" thing, losing at home to Jacksonville by a final score of 17-3 yesterday. They've now "opened up" a two-game lead over a gaggle of two-win teams, and have a remaining schedule that looks like this after the bye week: home Carolina, at New England, at Baltimore, home Tennessee, home Houston, at Jacksonville. They are double-digit underdogs in at least three, possibly five, of those games. The only one they will be a single digit dog is Carolina, and really, who are you taking, Cam Newton or Curtis Painter?
Point being, either Andrew Luck will be an Indianapolis Colt (signaling, at a minimum, relevance for the next 12 years or so) or they will trade the pick for the biggest king's ransom since the Saints traded their whole draft for Ricky Williams.
2. Geographic sanity Mixing in a little college football, you want to know how conflicted and confusing it is to be a fan of a Big East football program or Big East football in general these days? On Saturday, I was very conflicted because I wanted to see (soon-to-be) Big East team Boise State knock off those traitorous, Big East-defecting TCU Horned Frogs; however, I know that deep down I needed TCU to win to see (also, soon-to-be) Big East team Houston get to a BCS bowl. Total Big East games played by all three teams: zero. Number of these three teams involved in my mess that are in the Eastern Time Zone: zero. And yet, I love college football. Go figure.
1. Chris Petersen Speaking of Boise State, someone needed to show Bronco head coach Chris Petersen this video before he willfully had his Heisman candidate quarterback take a knee in the center of the field to set up a 40-yard field goal attempt to try and win the game against TCU on Saturday:
That was last season. I can't believe Petersen would leave it up to his kicker again. But he did. Goodbye, undefeated season. Goodbye, BCS bowl. Goodbye, Heisman Trophy to Kellen Moore. Hello, Poinsettia Bowl.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Yahoo! Sports Radio and 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.