Texans 45, Titans 21: 4 Winners, 4 Losers

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Ok, so I give up trying to predict what's going to happen in NFL games. No, really, I GIVE UP.

During the week, after Ryan Mallett's injury was finally confirmed with a trip to the injured reserve list on Wednesday (welcome, Thad Lewis!), my feeling was that it was only logical that there would be a letdown for the Titans' game on Sunday.

I mean, if the insertion of Mallett gave the offense a figurative B-12 shot (which it did, at least against Cleveland), then shouldn't his injury and our reacquaintance with Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was last seen stewarding a soul crushing 31-21 loss to the Eagles and a string of four losses in five games, inflict the opposite effect?

Shouldn't the restart of the Fitzpatrick Era bring on a letdown, with fans and privately perhaps, with his teammates? I thought so. It's why I gave out the under on the Titans-Texans game in "Best Bets" and why I thought Titans +7.5 was a solid bet.

So what happened?

Well, naturally, the Texans rolled up the Titans 45-21 in a game that was never close, never in doubt, and in which Ryan Fitzpatrtick had a record breaking day, completing 24 of 33 for 358 yards and six -- SIX! -- touchdowns. To put things in perspective, those five games (which, again, included four losses) that I referred to earlier? Well, he had six touchdowns in those five games combined.

The newer, less beardy Fitzpatrick, for one game at least, appears to be working. Among the other winners and losers in the game on Sunday were...


4. DeAndre Hopkins People will point to the two long touchdowns in the second half as the sign that Hopkins is now a clear number one receiver, or maybe the 32 yard catch when the Texans were backed up on their own one yard line in the first half. And those are certainly signs, no doubt. However, I like Hopkins' three first half catches where he, to an extent, bailed out a few errant Fitzpatrick throws. The most underrated catch he may have had all day was his first one, a ten yard catch on the first third down of the game (3rd and 4) on a ball thrown at his feet. It kept alive an eventual 80 drive that ended in an 8 yard Ryan Griffin touchdown catch. Good to see a tight end catch a touchdown pass...well, a tight end other than....

3. J.J. Watt For the fifth time this season, and the third on offense, Watt scored a touchdown and he is rapidly beginning to stack up feats that haven't been accomplished since the leather helmet era. The amazing thing about his three offensive touchdowns is that they've come about from three different formations. The first was your standard "defensive guy playing offense as eligible receiver" fare, but on the second one he was split out wide in single coverage, and on Sunday he motioned into the slot. It makes you wonder exactly how many plays are in the "J.J. package."

2. The Texans' playoff hopes So now at 6-6, the Texans are back to being able to discuss the postseason with a relatively straight face. Hey, it's still a long shot, largely because it feels like the entire civilized, non-division-leading world in the AFC has seven wins, but none of them has an easier Week 11 matchup (on paper) and, who knows, if things break the right way maybe that Week 15 matchup in Indy is for the division. If so, then the Texans new best friend just might be....

1. Johnny Manziel's fans The Colts travel to Cleveland in Week 14, which means there is a decent chance they will catch Johnny Football in his first career start. Brian Hoyer put up another stinker on Sunday against Buffalo and Manziel received some regular season action, including a scramble for his first career touchdown. After the game, Browns head coach Mike Pettine left open the possibility Manziel could start next week against the Colts:

So it's still possible that Johnny Manziel may have a bigger impact on the Texans' 2014 season than Jadeveon Clowney.


An all-QB edition this week....

4. Zach Mettenberger Speaking of rookie quarterbacks, when you look at this class, here are the passer ratings for those with four or more starts heading into Sunday's games:

Zach Mettenberger 86.7 Derek Carr 76.7 Teddy Bridgewater 75.7 Blake Bortles 70.8

To be clear, none of them are winning on a high level yet, but Mettenberger is clearly showing signs of being a viable NFL starter, certainly enough signs to be mentioned with the others on this list, which a) shows you how random the draft process can be, even at the most heavily scrutinized position and b) how crazy it is to think the same team could draft....

3. Jake Locker Once Mettenberger left the game with a strained AC joint (courtesy of a J.J. Watt hit, who else) on Sunday, the game as basically over, as the Titans were forced to trot out the human surrender flag, Locker. The former top ten pick went 6-12 for 91 yards and 2 picks, in a performance that eerily had a "Texans 2013" feel, when the team just can't wait to turn the page and get rid of a walking symbol of futility at quarterback. Remember?

2. Matt Schaub Aaaand speaking of Schaub, he was back to his old tricks on Sunday, coming in for mop up duty in a 52-0 thrashing at the hands of the Rams, and doing Schaub-like things, including a lost fumble and then his big WWE-style finisher...the pick six. Yes, Matt Schaub threw another interception for a touchdown. In his Raiders career, Schaub is now 5-10 for 57 yards and 2 picks. He is awful at football, and amazingly he is rendering this piece of video footage even more ridiculous than it was the day it occurred....

1. Brian Hoyer And finally, as we close the "Winners" with a Browns QB, so too do we close the "Losers" with a Browns QB. The high point of Cleveland's second existence as a franchise (post-1999) might have been the 24-3 thumping of the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 10, which took the Browns' record to 6-3 and put them atop the AFC North. However, since the kickoff of the game against the Texans the following week ("coincidentally" a game before which rumors had been circulating thanks to Hoyer's agent that multiple teams, including the Texans, had interest in Hoyer for 2015), Hoyer has thrown one touchdown and six interceptions, and completed barely over 50 percent of his passes (61-120). And now he may be benched, perhaps karma for allowing the rumor mill to stew over where he'd be poling next season before finishing this season. (And yes, I fully believe Hoyer green lighted his people's floating scenarios to the Adam Schefters of the NFL world.)

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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