If indeed you believe that the Houston Texans still have a chance to salvage something resembling a relevant threat to make the postseason in 2015, then the logical way to assess their schedule is to view Weeks 6, 7, and 8 as their own sub-season, with them shooting to go 3-0 so that they can get back to .500 heading into the bye week. (Perhaps you are of the mind that the better course for the Texans long-term is to lose every game the rest of the way and take a quarterback in the 2016 draft, and I'll admit that path has some merit, as well.)
So the Texans took care of the first leg of The Path Back To .500 on Sunday afternoon, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-20 in Jacksonville in a game that was the polar opposite of nearly every Texans game thus far this season. This week, the Texans were the ones building a double digit lead, winning the turnover battle, and converting key third downs.
It wasn't perfect. Far from it. They still can't really run the football, and the special teams are far from special. Oh, and they hit their quota on penalties again (double digits, yo!). But a win is a win, and the Texans remain on life support in a conference that is still quite top heavy, and a division that is imminently winnable.
Let's look at some winners and losers from Sunday afternoon….
4. Arian Foster
On the stat sheet, it was a solid but not dominant game for Arian Foster, with 18 carries for 53 yards on the ground and five catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. But the good news was that there were more signs of Arian Foster getting back to 100 percent physically, and any other back on the roster probably squeezes about 65 or 70 yards (max) out of the same plays Foster got 112 yards from. In particular, the 99 yard touchdown drive in the first quarter featured five plays that were plays only Arian Foster can make (of the backs on this roster) — 1) 16 yard run early in the drive, 2) 12 yard screen pass to set up 4th and 1, 3) eight yard run on and and 6, 4) conversion run on 3rd and 1, and the 15 yard touchdown catch.
3. DeAndre Hopkins
DeAndre Hopkins has already had a few big games this season. In fact, if you're looking for a completely arbitrary feat of consistency, the NFL gave us this gem:
For the record, I like that three game streak a billion times more than I like Antonio Brown's stupid, now defunct streak of a few dozen five catch, 50 hard games. Back to Hopkins, the best part about this game is that he piled up most of his stats (10 catches, 148 yards, 2 touchdowns) at nut cutting time of a close game, as opposed to garbage time of games in which the Texans were getting blown out.
2. Whitney Mercilus
With no Jadeveon Clowney in the lineup, Mercilus was able to move back over to the weak side where he is more comfortable. The result? Mercilus' best game of the season so far and a game where he actually justified, for one day at least, the $10 million guaranteed that the team gave him this past offseason:
Whitney Mercilus today. 3 tackles 2 sacks 7 hurries 3 QB Hits. #Texans— PDS (@PatDStat) October 19, 2015
1. Al Michaels
Among the NFL prop bets that betting website Bovada put out this week was the Over/Under on the number of times that the word "deflate-gate" would be uttered by the announce team on Sunday night. They set it at 3 times. What Bovada didn't factor into the equation was the fact that the play-by-play guy, Al Michaels, is a total degenerate gambler. So what did Michaels do? Well, not only did he acknowledge the existence of the wager, he feigned disgust at said wager, and then proceeded to go "Deflate-Gate… Deflate-Gate… Deflate-Gate… Deflate-Gate…. that's four. So there." Someone from the FBI, check Michaels' Bovada account! FIX!!!
4. Lonnie Ballentine
SInce being drafted with the final pick of the 2014 draft, Ballentine has been unable to stay healthy for any extended period of time. He spent the entire 2014 season on injured reserve, and has been banged up for most of this season as well. Finally, on Sunday, the second year safety from Memphis was seeing significant playing time in different defensive packages and playing well. Then, in the second half Sunday, Ballentine banged legs with Jags' wide receiver Allen Robinson and took, by far, the worst of the play, leaving the field on a cart with his leg in an air cast. Not much to say except you feel terrible for Lonnie Ballentine.
3. Ryan Mallett
In the Colts game, ten days ago, Mallett left the game after taking a hit to the chest. one play later, he was ready to go back in, but never did. Yesterday, Brian Hoyer was knocked out cold briefly after a hit on a scramble. Hoyer left the game, in came Mallett, and one play later, Hoyer was back in the game…. in case you were wondering where Bill O'Brien stands with these two quarterbacks right about now.
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2. Texans tight ends
The Texans two tight ends, Garrett Graham and C.J. Fiedorowicz, combined for one catch for eight yards. I need someone to ask Bill O'Brien what he feels either of these guys does well, because right now they don't really bring anything to the table.
1. Julian Edelman's finger
This looks like it feels well below average...
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