Two weeks ago, the Bengals game was the latest "Texans must win this game or the season is over and the world ends" game, and we all know what happened. The Texans lost, the season (felt like it) was over and the world (temporarily) ended.
Of course, the NFL season is long and while it isn't all-forgiving, it does allow for second chances. The fact was if the Texans went out and took care of business in the next two games (to this point, the two most lopsided games on paper -- Tennessee at home, Jacksonville on the road), they'd be right back in the mix at 7-6, in need of help but alive.
So the Texans completed the double dip this weekend. After waxing the Titans last week by 24, they finished off a spunky Jacksonville squad by outscoring them 17-0 in the second half on Sunday, cruising to a formulaic 27-13 win in which the Texans kept alive their trend of thumping teams with poor or young (or in the case of Buffalo, both) quarterbacks.
As always, there were winners and losers. Let's take a look...
4. Arian Foster Foster put up a bother monster game with 127 yards, taking him over 1,000 yards on the season, a season in which he's missed three games with injuries. This was the classic Foster game where he has 3 or 4 plays that only he and maybe a couple of other backs in the league could make, including a field position swinging 51-yard run in the first half, and a one-yard touchdown run on fourth down in the second half that saved the bacon of everyone blocking for him and his head coach who chose to go for it. That touchdown made it 24-13 and basically put the game out of reach. At this point, with his explosiveness back to 2010-11 levels, the only valid criticism of Foster is that the injuries have reduced his reliability. When he plays, he's the most complete back in the league.
3. J.J. Watt No offensive touchdowns this week for Watt, who got in for one offensive snap in which the Texans unveiled the latest part of the Watt goal line package, the part where he is a total decoy and they run to the opposite side of the field. Defensively, Watt had his usual stat sheet stuffing game -- 4 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 1 pass defended, 5 QB hits. Go look at the box score on ESPN.com and focus in on the defensive stats. Watt's stat line looks so comical next to everyone else's. Most players' stat lines are just tackle amounts and then a line of zeroes. Watt's is full of crooked numbers. The Texans' defensive stats look like a baseball box score where there's only one good hitter in the lineup (whose name is J.J. Watt).
2. Favorites in games involving the Texans A fun little gambling factoid for Texans fans, and one way of qualifying how predictable they've been this season, insomuch as they have routinely pounded average/bad teams (all seven wins against teams at 7-6 or worse, six of the wins by double digits) and lost to above-average/good teams (five of six wins to teams with 8 or more wins) -- the favorite in Texans games this season is 11-2 straight up. The only games involving the Texans that have been straight-up upsets were the Texans' win over the Browns (-3.5 favorites) and the Bengals' win over the Texans (-2.5 favorites). Also, the spread has only mattered in one Texans game all season (meaning the team that has covered the spread has also won the game 12 of 13 times). That was the Dallas game where the Texans lost by 3 but covered the 5-point spread. Neat stuff, until you realize the Texans will likely be underdogs the next two weeks (at Indy, home vs Baltimore).
1. Jeff Fisher I love a good troll job. On Sunday, the Rams team captains against the Washington Redskins were wide receiver Stedman Bailey, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, defensive tackle Michael Brockers, running back Zac Stacy, left tackle Greg Robinson and linebacker Alec Ogletree. These six players represented the Rams for the coin toss. Not coincidentally (at all), these six players were also drafted using picks acquired for the pick that Washington used to draft Robert Griffin III, who is their backup quarterback. That trade has worked out poorly. (By the way, the Rams are easily the best team that mathematically has virtually no chance at the playoffs. They've won the past two weeks by a 76-0 total.)
4. Whitney Mercilus With Jadeveon Clowney now officially done for the season, opportunity abounds at the outside linebacker position, which should be good news for Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus. Reed is in the middle of the most important four-game stretch of his career (heading into free agency), and Mercilus has to give the Texans something to think about when the time comes to decide on his fifth-year option this spring. Mercilus responded with one tackle and a second half in which he was replaced by John Simon.
3. Texans wide receiver position The emergence of DeAndre Hopkins has made the future of Andre Johnson in Houston a hot topic the past few weeks. With a cap figure of $16 million for 2015, many fans and media members have speculated that Andre could be asked to take a pay cut or get traded this coming offseason. Certainly, his production is not $16-million-level production; however, without a viable solution to replace him, sending Johnson elsewhere becomes problematic. After Johnson went down with a concussion in the first half, Texans fans got a small taste of what life without Johnson (and more worrisome, life with Keshawn Martin and Damaris Johnson) would be like. The fact of the matter is that the second-best wide receiver on this team when Johnson is out is Arian Foster split out wide. That's a major issue.
2. Mike Scifres This poor bastard.....
Seriously, Scifres looks like Shawn Michaels selling for Hulk Hogan....
1. Cleveland Most weeks -- okay, every week before this week -- I couldn't care less who the Browns start or what happens in their game. But this week's game between the Browns and the Colts was essentially a quasi-Texans game. The Texans needed the Browns to win to keep alive hopes of an AFC South title, so we paid extra-keen interest to the Browns QB situation this past week. Brian Hoyer, the incumbent starter, has been abysmal pretty much since the kickoff of the Texans game three weeks ago, and Johnny Manziel looked like he could provide a spark after mop-up duty against Atlanta last week. So naturally, the Browns did the "Browns" thing -- they stayed with Hoyer, largely at the request of Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who told head coach Mike Pettine that going with Manziel would amount to giving up on the season. So after Hoyer went 14-31 for 140 yards and two picks on Sunday (seriously, if Hoyer just plays mediocre instead of flat-out awful, Cleveland wins), Browns fans let it be known that Thomas needs to keep his mouth shut this week and let Johnny play...
Hopefully Pettine talks to more players than just Joe Thomas after this week bc Thomas was dead wrong about Hoyer last week.
— Justin W8 (@SirDubblin) December 8, 2014
I have a feeling both pettine and hoyer will be out of cleveland, wanted to trade for harbough,, joe Thomas stfu about qbs n block
— B-manziel2 (@Bs2Real__6) December 7, 2014
Hey Joe Thomas you fat Wisconsin slob is this the reason that Brian Hoyer gives us a better chance than Johnny Manziel
— QUANTREL BISHOP (@THE_ELPRESADOR) December 7, 2014
Joe Thomas needs to keep his mouth shut. Hoyer needs to leave. Manziel needs to play.
— Andrew Cosper (@andrew_cosper) December 7, 2014
Memo to Joe Thomas and whoever else wants Hoyer in: The better quarterback is on the sidelines
— Nick Dulach (@ClevelandRoxx) December 7, 2014
Free Johnny Football!!