The Houston Texans have made it through the seventeen week war of attrition that is the NFL's regular season, and they've managed to survive fairly healthy. Yeah, like every team, they've suffered a few season-ending injuries that are going to leave a mark — right tackle Tytus Howard, special teams captain Dylan Cole, and add Tashaun Gipson's name to the list (more on that in a moment) — but most of the upper tier talent on the Texans is intact for the beginning of the postseason.
Here was Tuesday's injury report heading into the wild card round playoff week:
And here was the biggest news of all:
OK, let's attack these one at a time:
J.J. Watt is back! That's good!
Once the rumors turned into an activation of Watt's practice window last week, the activation to play in actual games was just a matter of time. Still, there is something comforting about seeing it in writing from the team. I'm about as anxious to see Watt give it a go just two months after surgery for a torn pectoral as I've been for any individual Texan-related development. If I had to guess, he will be used much more situationally than if he'd been healthy all season. I'm guessing Watt will largely play in obvious pass rushing situations, which should help Whitney Mercilus and (if healthy) Jacob Martin get loose to pressure Bills QB Josh Allen. Considering everyone, including Watt himself, thought his season was over, this is the equivalent of a major free agency signing right before the playoffs.
Tashaun Gipson is done for the season... that's bad.
Gipson has been solid enough this season for the Texans, as the fallback plan to Tyrann Mathieu leaving for a market setting contract in Kansas City. Nagging injuries have been a problem all season for Gipson, and officially it's a back injury that will end his first season in Houston. It's curious that he played nearly 50 snaps in a meaningless Week 17 game while nursing a back injury, but that's water under the bridge now. Jahleel Addae will step into the Gipson breach, and presumably, special teams standout A.J. Moore will now get snaps in some sub package situations.
Will Fuller was limited in practice, which I suppose is better than being out altogether.
At this point, my overriding Will Fuller take is that I just hate getting my hopes up that he might play, and even if he suits up, it always feels like we are one misstep away from another soft tissue malady. At this stage of the season, the Texans need Fuller against every opponent, but especially in this Buffalo matchup, against a defense that gets after the quarterback really well, and has a top of line cornerback (Tra'davious White) to make life difficult for DeAndre Hopkins. The Bills are not an opponent that gives the Texans the luxury of load managing Fuller. If he can come close to going, he needs to be on the field.
How about the other names on the injury list?
We mentioned Fuller, but it is worth noting that there really aren't any insignificant names on the injury list. Addae is now presumably the starting safety alongside Justin Reid. Jospeh and Roby, collectively, are the experience at cornerback, and Roby is the team's best corner, when healthy. Jacob Martin is a valuable edge rusher, Kenny Still is Fuller insurance (and a vital body at wide receiver, even when Fuller is healthy), and Tunsil might be the second most valuable player on the team, after Deshaun Watson.