"If the Texans are 3-3 after the first six games, then we'll be happy." -- Pretty much every same Texans fan
The statement is a classic example of how the ebb and flow of a season can recalibrate expectations. The Texans are set up to be 3-3 after this Sunday (7-1/2 point underdog traveling to Baltimore), and after getting off to a 3-1 start, including a "hey, this feels like real football!" win over the Steelers, 3-3 would probably feel like a bit of a letdown.
But that's exactly what the Texans are staring at this weekend as they head to Baltimore without their most talented players on each side of the ball (Andre Johnson, Mario Williams). Five quick things to keep an eye on Sunday:
5. Brooks Reed and his "high motor" NFL draft types have all sorts of cool little dork phrases for telling us guys are good players. Fluid hips, soft hands, quick feet. The phrase that gets attached to Brooks Reed is "high motor," basically meaning that he goes a thousand miles an hour all of the time. The Texans will need every bit of that this weekend in their first full game without Mario Williams. I will say this -- of all the Texans' Pro Bowl- or near-Pro Bowl-caliber players on defense, while Mario may be the most physically gifted, I suspect there is the shortest dropoff from Mario to whoever is behind Mario (in this case, Reed) compared to, say, Johnathan Joseph, Brian Cushing, DeMeco Ryans, Antonio Smith or Danieal Manning.
4. Jacoby Jones having an actual "win" that we can see Gary Kubiak on Jones's performance against the Raiders: "He played a lot of plays, 70-plus plays him and Kevin (Walter). As I said, we got pressured a lot so a lot of things we were doing, we were having to protect and let he and Kevin go one-on-one with their secondary. He had some wins where we didn't protect as well or didn't get him the ball as well and sometimes we protected well and we didn't get the win."
Actuality, part 1: Jones had one catch for nine yards, and was targeted eleven times. (FUN FACT: The next lowest catch/target ratio last week for receivers with 10 or more targets was 50 percent. Jacoby was at nine percent.) Actuality, part 2: The Texans traded a draft pick for 85-year-old Derrick Mason this week. Actuality, part 3: There is no way Kubiak believes what he said. Impossible.
3. Special teams The Texans had their worst special-teams performance certainly this season, and possibly the last couple seasons, in the game against the Raiders on Sunday. Blocked punts, missed field goals, fair catches inside the ten yard line, the Rock Cartwright fake punt. Their response to that performance? 1. Hard work (I'm just assuming that's the case because Kubiak's typical response to a dismal performance is to "go back and work harder.") and 2. Elevating designated kick returner Trindon Holliday from the practice squad. Be forewarned, in case Holliday is out there on punts. When we were in New Orleans last preseason watching the Texans practice with the Saints, John Granato watched Holliday practice fielding punts. He cleanly fielded one out of every three. I don't even have a joke for that.
2. Ray Lewis Ray Lewis predicted during the lockout that if there was no football, the crime rate would skyrocket through the roof...
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The only thing that he was correct about was crime rising. Of course, the demographic in which it rose was within NFL team employees. Hell, Kenny Britt damn was singlehandedly ahead of 26 of the teams. So Ray Lewis wasn't exactly right. But are you going to tell him that? Um, hell no. Ray Lewis scares me.
1. The trainers With James Casey, Mario Williams and Andre Johnson all out, and with other positions getting dinged and nicked up here and there, the Texans can ill afford to send any more guys to the MRI machine, especially with Tennessee coming up next week in Nashville, and they will be coming off of a bye (like the Ravens this week -- WTF, Goodell!).
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Yahoo! Sports Radio and 1560 The Game weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.