It's amazing how quickly things can change.
Sometimes, it takes a matter of a few weeks, like with the Kansas City Chiefs. After being outscored 89-10 the first two weeks of the season, the Chiefs were left for dead, Todd Haley was the chalk for every "first coach fired in 2011" wager and Andrew Luck was probably working Photoshop to see what he would look like wearing a "Chiefs 12" jersey. Four weeks later, they're 3-3 and prepping for a Monday night game with the Chargers for first place in the AFC West.
Sometimes, it takes one game, like with the Texans. After two straight losses where they couldn't move the ball on the ground and where the injury bug continued to crush them, it took 60 minutes on Sunday for the Texans to get their mojo back, and in turn, regain the trust of the fans that this could be the year they finally play in the postseason.
Let's recap yesterday's winners and losers:
4. The "this could be the year" crowd While the injury bug that has bitten the Texans is a little perplexing (Foster for the first three games, Andre Johnson, James Casey, Mario Williams, now Danieal Manning), it's not something the team can use as an excuse, especially when you see the way the AFC South and the Texans' schedule are unfolding as the season goes along. Right now, the Texans share a division with teams whose starting quarterbacks are Matt Hasselbeck, Blaine Gabbert and Curtis Painter. The catch-all caveat that comes with predicting the fate for any NFL team is "assuming [fill in quarterback name] stays healthy" (see Colts, Indianapolis), but the fact of the matter is that Matt Schaub could get hurt and the Texans would still have, worst case, the second-best starting quarterback (Matt Leinart) in the division.
As for the injuries, Johnson should be back soon enough as should Casey. Manning's injury is a bit of a setback in the secondary, but he could be back in as few as four weeks, which means he'd miss two Jacksonville games, the Cleveland game and the Tampa Bay game (with the bye week mixed in). The Texans should be able to lock down those teams with Archie Manning at safety. By the way, the combined records of the Texans' nine remaining opponents? 22-36.
So yeah, "this could be the year." Actually, if this isn't the year, we should have to forfeit the team to Los Angeles.
3. Arian Foster After the run game stalled the past two weeks, we had started to hear grumblings that Foster wasn't the same dynamic back that he was last season. Against the Raiders, he was essentially shut down in the running game and the Texans had to split him out and get him some touches in the passing game (5 catches for 116 yards). Against the Ravens, nothing really worked. Well, the game yesterday was the bizarro Raven game. Pretty much everything Foster did worked as he went over 100 yards rushing and receiving, becoming the first Texan to achieve that feat in franchise history (and the 32nd player ever). The one play that should make every Texan fan breathe easier on the Arian Foster 2011 Experience is the 78-yard touchdown reception, where he a) made a Titan defensive back look silly in the open field and b) put on the afterburners and showed off his "just fast enough to beat whoever is two steps behind him" football speed. Observe, a Pro Bowl running back in his natural habitat:
2. My show As I've mentioned a few times in this space, Arian Foster and I do an hour each week on my show, so to say that there is some sort of cosmic fortune that is bestowed upon guests on my show in the form of my guests scoring touchdowns would be a tad disingenuous. Foster was scoring touchdowns before he became part of my radio family. So I can't take
much credit when Foster has a three touchdown outburst...until you look at the other players who have appeared on my show in the last three weeks and have gone on to score touchdowns:
-- Foster -- Owen Daniels, Texans tight end (plus he's on my fantasy team, so...bonus!) -- Delanie Walker, 49er tight end (game winner versus the Lions) -- Naaman Roosevelt, Bills wide receiver (a sixty yarder, no less!) -- Jared Cook, Titans tight end (the only Titan touchdown against the Texans) -- DeMarco Murray (not just touchdowns, but a new Cowboy rushing record)
Amazing, right? RIGHT? Hello?
This trend is much more guest-friendly than the jinx which I'd been cultivating in the last year or so, when Texans linebacker David Nixon was cut within ten minutes of hanging up the phone with me last season, and Steeler running back Baron Batch had his rookie season end with an ACL tear two days after coming on with me. 1. Tim Tebow I put him in the "4 Winners" because frankly I'm fearful that one of Tebow's cult followers will tell me what a hater I am if I don't. So yes, Tebow was a starting quarterback in an NFL win on Sunday, a win that with three minutes to go in regulation had literally a one percent chance of happening. (I know this thanks to Bill Barnwell's excellent weekend recap.)
Those are the overly general facts that Tebow-phants (the nickname I use for Tebow's blind loyalists, like the people chanting his name in the video below) will cite as the only important ones in evaluating him -- he won, he won in dramatic fashion, therefore he is magic.
With Tebow-phants, the modus operandi is to not only parse out the most convenient pieces of data to support their myopic argument, but also attribute any and every positive result to the presence of Tebow and, worse, ignore all data and reasonable observation that suggest the results will not remain positive (even though, in their world, ultimately any negative results would surely lay at the feet of someone other than Tebow).
4. Future franchise running backs wanting to get paid Titans running back Chris Johnson held out during the 2011 preseason with hopes of getting a long-term deal. While the negotiations were, at times, acrimonious (including Johnson sniping with Titans fans on Twitter), a deal eventually got done, with Johnson getting $30 million guaranteed. Seven weeks into the season, the Titans have to be having buyer's remorse as Johnson is averaging 2.9 yards per carry and has had one game over 100 yards. That is, unless they agree with Johnson that he's not the problem:
"Basically, if you are watching the game and you really can't tell what is going on with the run game then I would say you really don't know football," Johnson told The Tennessean newspaper of Nashville, after the Titans were blown out 41-7 by the Houston Texans on Sunday. "I wouldn't say I am the issue. I am very confident I am doing the things ... I do."
Remember in elementary school when there would be one kid who would step out of line and the whole class would wind up getting punished, and the teacher would try and explain to the kids in the class who did nothing wrong that they "have [so-and-so] to blame" for the punishment? Well, Chris Johnson is about to get all future featured running backs punished when it comes time to get a long-term contract. "Sorry, Arian, we'd love to pay you, but the Chris Johnson deal is really scaring us from paying big money to a running back. You're a good kid, but if you're mad, you have Chris Johnson to blame. Sorry."
3. AFC South It can't be stressed enough, the Texans reside in a terrible division. In fact, the three teams in the AFC South not named the "Houston Texans" may comprise the easiest road one team has had to win a division since the Texans entered the league in 2002 and the league went to eight four-team divisions. Consider that the 2010 NFC West was generally considered the poop standard (opposite of "gold standard") for bad NFL divisions, and the 2011 Colts and 2011 Jags would be underdogs to all four of the 2010 NFC West teams on a neutral field, and the 2011 Titans appear to be, at best, the equal of the 2010 Seahawks and 2010 Rams (both of whom finished 7-9). At best. So, am I overreacting to a bad weekend for the teams in the AFC South? Maybe. But know this -- the Titans and Colts were outscored 103-14 yesterday and the Jags are a ten-point underdog to the Ravens tonight on Monday Night Football, so if there were ever a weekend to overreact, I picked the right one.
2. Donovan McNabb So if I have this correct, in the last 18 months, Donovan McNabb has been:
-- ...unceremoniously traded from the team with whom he built a probably Hall of Fame career for the past decade so that team could move Kevin Kolb into the starting lineup (because as we have all seen this season, there was just no holding Kevin Kolb down. Kevin Kolb.
-- ...benched in favor of Rex Grossman -- Rex Grossman -- midway through the 2010 season for, among other things, alleged cardiovascular issues when running the two-minute drill, which marked the first time I'd ever heard an NFL scoring drive put into the same endurance category as a triathalon.
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-- ...benched in favor of rookie Christian Ponder for, among other things, allegedly showing up late to meetings and displaying a generally poor work ethic, reports that McNabb vehemently denies.
All of these things beg the question....
1. The Raiders ...why did the Raiders give up a 2012 first round pick and another conditional 2013 first round pick for Carson Palmer when they could have probably had McNabb for a middle-round pick? While McNabb's being traded to the Raiders would have probably denied us the spectacle yesterday of Kyle Boller and Palmer each throwing up a matching three-pick performance against the Chiefs, we would have been able to see McNabb kill a third franchise in under two full seasons.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on Yahoo! Sports Radio and 1560 The Game weekdays noon to 3 p.m., and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.