"This is the BIGGEST game in Texans history!"
-- Numerous media members and fans before any number of October and November games the last ten years
For the first nine seasons of their existence, a time when the Texans rarely carried any mathematical relevance in the playoff race into November much less December, it felt like the Texans would have one game (maybe two) each season that delusional fans and hype-starved media members would deem "the biggest game in Texans history!!"
Most of the time, it was an October game against the Colts, or perhaps a September game after a 2-0 start (The Texans didn't have their first 3-0 start until 2012). Rest assured, it was some game that would make most fans in other cities laugh at us if they knew we were hyperbolizing so.
Finally, in 2011, actual "BIG" games (by most teams' definition) began to occur -- games that had playoff implications, games in December. And promptly those games shoved aside everything on the list from 2002 through 2010.
But the truth is, if you're a team that aspires to get to the Super Bowl (and who doesn't?), then unless it's a Super Bowl or a conference championship game, the magnitude of a particular game is often better evaluated in hindsight, judging whatever chain of events ensued afterwards.
That is especially the case with a team that's only existed for 12 seasons like the Texans, and here's why I say that -- given the following:
1. The Texans have never been to a Super Bowl or even a conference title game. In fact, they've only been to the playoffs twice and neither time have they really done anything of substance. (Granted, just getting to the playoffs was a major accomplishment for this team, given its largely mediocre on-field history prior to 2011.)
2. The team is currently in a five-game tailspin (average loss margin of 16 points per game) where they're now openly experimenting with a quarterback who had never taken an NFL snap until a little over a week ago.
3. Oddly enough, said quarterback (an undrafted free agent in 2012, by the way) is clearly their best option at this point, and it's not even really up for debate, which is a complete indictment on the former starter and the head coach.
4. Seven years and seven games in, this is undoubtedly the lowest point of the Gary Kubiak Era (which is saying something, considering Kubiak's is an era famous for its numerous low points), and a large part of the failure has been because of Matt Schaub's play at quarterback and Kubiak's conservativeness and resistance to making a change (until finally forced to, by a Week 6 injury to Schaub, in Week 7).
Given all of that, I think you could make an argument that the biggest game in Texans history, IN RETROSPECT, was the 37-9 win over Tampa Bay in 2011. That was the game that Matt Schaub suffered the Lisfranc injury to his foot, which knocked him out for the rest of the season.
That game set in motion the entire narrative that we all know by now:
"Wow, the Texans went on to win the division, win a playoff game and compete with the Ravens toe to toe in a divisional game WITHOUT MATT SCHAUB. Holy moly, can you imagine if they had had Matt Schaub? The Texans would have made the Super Bowl! Matt Schaub is AMAZING! He's MAGICAL! He needs an extension! A $62 MILLION EXTENSION! Cal, somebody get me my checkbook!"
(Somehow, that faux narrative went from generic third person to Hypothetical Bob McNair. Not sure how that happened. Anyway...)
Indeed, somehow while injured, Matt Schaub morphed into Tom Brady's younger brother.
In retrospect, the injury to and ensuing absence of Schaub, and then the subsequent pluckiness of a success-starved franchise getting to the second-round playoffs in January 2012 created the illusion of Schaub being the missing variable, which then triggered a totally unnecessary contract extension just before the 2012 season, done mostly for the sake of "making Matt comfortable." And let's face it, keeping Matt comfortable, keeping Matt well paid, keeping Matt PERIOD is a big reason why the Texans are where they are right now.
So there, you have my contention -- the Texans' biggest game in their history was a seemingly ho-hum 37-9 win over Tampa Bay.
And that brings me to this Sunday's game against the Colts, which by the definition I just spent several hundred words outlining I cannot call the "biggest game in Texans history," at least not until after the game is over and we've had several weeks to allow the season to play out. (If you haven't noticed, my "biggest game" theory is all about "retrospect.")
However, it does have "biggest game" potential, when you consider:
1. A Texans win puts them at 3-5, which sounds, frankly, still pretty terrible, but when you consider that they'd be 3-2 in the conference, 2-0 in the division and 1-0 against the Colts, with seven conference and four division games remaining...well, you can start to see some of the figurative wounds healing a little bit.
2. The next five games after Sunday are at Arizona, home for Oakland, Jacksonville and New England, and then a Thursday night in Jacksonville. Not exactly a murderer's row.
3. A loss (and right now, that's considered the likely outcome) puts the Texans at 2-6, effectively ends the season and puts the Gary Kubiak Era on life support. Suddenly, the only games that the Texans are favored in are the two against the Jaguars and the home game against the Raiders (barely).
In short, and in my opinion, this game Sunday against the Colts charts the course the rest of the way. Win, and especially a win where Case Keenum plays well, and 9-7 or 10-6 are still firmly in play. Lose, and we are officially on the fast track to 4-12 or 5-11.
If the former plays out, we will look back under my "biggest game" methodology and point to Sunday night as the biggest game, for that's when the tide will have turned. If the latter plays out, we will look back and point to either Sunday night, or more likely, the Seattle game and the Richard Sherman Pick-6, as the "biggest game."
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The fact of the matter is this has been a different team since that very play (another indictment for another time).
For me, when it comes to judging games, "big" means "important," and for the direction of a franchise that has still accomplished so little in its brief history, these next nine weeks are ridiculously important. They're as important as it gets.
And it starts on Sunday.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.