The Texans beat the Browns soundly yesterday by a score of 30-12, and for the first time in the history of the franchise, your hometown team is three games over .500.
The Texans have never tasted this rarefied air before, so I don't really know what to do. Do we schedule a parade down Kirby? Do we spray champagne on our co-workers when we get to work this week? Do we have T-shirts made up for the occasion, and if so, do we send them to little kids in the Congo if the Texans fall back to two games over .500 this weekend (like the flood of "Buffalo Bills World Champion" shirts and hats donned by kids in the jungles of Africa)?
I don't know how to react, so for now I'll just savor another sub-175 yard performance by the defense, another streetfight brawl won by the offense, and dive into some winners and losers.
Let's do this...
WINNERS 4. Smash mouth football Gary Kubiak was part of the Bronco staff that constructed those Denver offenses of the late '90s, early '00s, where the identity of the running back seemingly became the least relevant piece of information as they plugged everybody from superstars like Terrell Davis and Clinton Portis to washouts like Quentin Griffin and Olandis Gary in and they all seemingly went and got 1,000 yards. Now, it's like he's taken the knowledge from the dark lord Shanahan and constructed his own ground game terror machine in Houston, only here they have actual backs with skills. For the second time in three games, Arian Foster and Ben Tate BOTH had 100 yards rushing. And that's with almost zero threat of the Texans throwing the ball more than 20 yards down the field.
While I'm as excited as anyone to get Andre Johnson back, there's part of me that would love to see the Texans continue to bludgeon teams into a run-induced coma and see Arian Foster AND Ben Tate make the Pro Bowl. (You'd need injuries to get Tate there, but seriously, after Foster, Jones-Drew, Fred Jackson, Ray Rice, McFadden...I mean, Tate's not that far off.)
3. Atlanta Falcons So at 6-3, we can now legitimately ask the question "Will the Texans get flex-scheduled into a Sunday night home game?" As you probably know, for seven of the final eight weeks of the season (Christmas is set in stone), NBC reserves the right to change the Sunday night game to one that has some semblance of playoff implications. This is after CBS and Fox have both essentially drafted and frozen five games apiece over that period of time. I haven't gone through the process of doing a "mock CBS and Fox flex game draft" (that would top all dork-out mock drafts ever, ever, ever, by the way), but it would seem the best chance for a Texans home Sunday night game would be Atlanta on December 4 or (and hopefully the division is locked up by then, but...) Tennessee on January 1. I want nothing to do with a winner-take-all game for the AFC South on January 1, so let's just hope Atlanta keeps winning and NBC thinks the nation would love to see 8-3 Atlanta at 8-3 Houston on a Sunday night, okay?
2. Texans marketing Brian Cushing is almost making it too easy for the Texans gift shop to make posters for the holiday season. Does it get any more badass than this?
1. Brooks Reed When Mario Williams went down with his torn pectoral muscle, there was understandable trepidation among Texans fans. Brooks Reed had gotten minimal playing time in the regular season, and Mario was beginning to click in that "hybrid standup defensive end, but we'll call him an outside linebacker" role. Let's face it, in terms of sheer athletic dominance, there is no bigger force on the Texans roster than number 90. And yet, four games into the post-Mario Era, the Texans defense has risen to the top defense in the league, and Brooks Reed has four sacks in his last three games. Admittedly, I don't know about the long-term fit for Reed in Williams's spot (strong side, weak side, all that garbage), but if Reed continues to produce and the Texans continue to win, what to do with Mario Williams's contract extension will be a hot topic as the season rolls on and during the off-season.
LOSERS 4. Chris Ogbonnaya The rules are fairly simple in the NFL -- the more a team has invested in you from a draft position (and in turn guaranteed money) standpoint, the more slack you'll get to make mistakes (see: Jackson, Kareem). So when Chris Ogbonnaya, by all accounts a great kid (I think I heard Kubiak call him a "great kid" one time; actually I think I've heard Kubiak call everyone a "great kid" one time), fumbled on his first carry as a starter in the NFL, you had to feel for him a little bit. That's the express pass to oblivion if you're a practice-squad-caliber running back. 3. My Gary Kubiak replay challenge parlay ticket Tough weekend for gambling beats for me. Sunday night, I get Flacco'd by Ordinary Joe on a length of the field drive to kill Steelers -3 1/2 and the under 41 1/2, but before that my ticket where I risked $20,000,000 to win $100 that Gary Kubiak wouldn't win a replay challenge all year imploded when Gary Kubiak WON A REPLAY CHALLENGE. I'm not sure where I'm going to find the $20 million, that's not really a balance you can chip away at with little three-team parlays and the like.
(SIDEBAR: In all wagering seriousness, that actually was an incredibly important challenge for anyone with Texans -11 1/2. The score at the time was 30-12, Texans. If that fumble is held up, you go from the Texans running out the clock to the Browns throwing into the teeth of a prevent defense trying to make it 30-19. This is the world you live in when you lay double digits on the Texans.)
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2. The city of Cleveland Is there a more boring, less relevant team than the Cleveland Browns in the NFL right now? Assuming you can be relevant for being really good or really bad, then all of the teams in the playoff hunt are more relevant and all of the teams sucking for Luck are more relevant. This leaves Denver (who is actually only one game out of the AFC West lead), Washington, Minnesota, Carolina, Seattle, Arizona, Jacksonville and Cleveland as all of the 2-3 win teams. Denver is immediately relevant because of Tebow. Washington is relevant because their owner could sign Lou Holtz to a six-year, $50 million contract to coach the team at any moment. Minnesota has at least two legit star players in Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen. Carolina, Cam Newton, enough said. So the question is, "What makes Cleveland less relevant than Seattle, Arizona or Jacksonville?" The answer? Nothing. There you go...a four-way tie for the "least compelling to be a football fan" award in 2011.
1. Me As long as Jacoby Jones keeps making a couple big contributions per game, I will continue to admit that maybe -- MAYBE -- I was wrong about him a few weeks ago. In this game, he made a couple big catches, had a huge 50-yard punt return to change field position, and maybe his best play of the game came without the ball in his hands as he made the downfield block on Joe Haden to allow Ben Tate to finish his first quarter touchdown run. The key will be Jacoby taking whatever he's learned in this Andre-less period and applying it once Andre comes back so he can be a true threat to help take some heat off number 80, and maybe allow Kevin Walter to play in the slot a little bit.
Sean's interactive 2011 season game card has been updated.
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