Here we are, two weeks left to go in the regular season, and not only are the Texans playing meaningful football games, but there exists intrigue in games all over the league when it comes to our hometown team a) making the postseason and b) possibly having some postseason success.
Also, I can't stress enough how important it is for the Texans to take care of their business this weekend. They are in a virtual "win and they're in" situation, as the tiebreakers in an 8-8 tie heavily favor the Texans right now. As much fun as it would be to have a de facto play-in game at Reliant in Week 17, this team needs the rest. Specifically, J.J. Watt's groin and hand need the rest. (And yes, I realize that sentence makes it sound like J.J. Watt is masturbating every 30 minutes or something.) Brian Hoyer's head needs to be taken out of harm's way. Caution needs to be exercised with key vets like Duane Brown, Johnathan Joseph, and the bunch.
In short, let's finish the job on Sunday, Texans, and go get your third (and easily most flawed) AFC South title in the last five years. What will we be watching on Sunday? Well, it starts with other games...
4. The scoreboard
While the Texans themselves will be focused on what's happening on the field, fans of the team will be watching the entire slate of NFL games. It starts with Indianapolis and Miami at noon, because if the Texans win, and the Colts lose, there's no drama — the Texans win the AFC South. But let's pretend for a moment that both teams win. What games move the needle on the tie breaker that could decide the AFC South at 8-8, if the Texans lose to the Jags in Week 17. Remember, that tie breaker is strength of victory, and headed into this week, the Texans' would-be 8-8 record includes wins over teams with a total of 50 wins, and the Colts would-be 8-8 record has wins over teams with a total of 47 wins.
Without getting too in depth, under this scenario, the only teams whose results move the margin (because the Texans and Colts have beaten several of the same teams) are the Bengals, Jets, and Saints for the Texans, and the Broncos, Falcons, and Dolphins for the Colts. On Sunday and Monday, here's the schedule for those teams:
Jets at Patriots, noon
Colts at Dolphins, noon
Panthers at Falcons, noon
Jaguars at Saints, 3:05 p.m.
Bengals at Broncos, 7:30 p.m. Monday
The bottom line is the Texans merely need that 50-47 margin to increase by one this weekend to clinch the division. For what it's worth, if the favorites win in the four games that don't directly involve the Colts, the margin will still be three victories headed into Week 17. For what it's worth, also, here is the Week 17 schedule for those six teams:
Jets at Bills, 12:00 p.m.
Patriots at Dolphins, 12:00 p.m.
Saints at Falcons, 12:00 p.m.
Ravens at Bengals, 12:00 p.m.
Chargers at Broncos, 3:25 p.m.
3. J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt claims he's getting more and more comfortable with his club hand that dangles off of his ferocious left arm. I'll take his word for it. It will be interesting to see if Romeo Crennel continues to come up with ways this Sunday for J.J. to get after quarterbacks without having to engage linemen in hand-to-hand combat (stunts and what not), or if they wait until the postseason to unveil some more of that stuff. It's amazing that Watt has been as effective as he has been basically playing with one arm. (And sidebar: How badly does it suck to be Jared Crick right now? J.J. is outplaying him with one arm.)
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2. Tight ends
This bullet point is for tight ends on both sides of the ball. My request to the Texans' tight ends is simple — when the ball is thrown to you, Ryan and C.J., catch it, and when you're asked to block, please don't hold. Is that too much to ask? Meanwhile, one bright spot for the Titans this season has been the play of Delanie Walker, whose 76 catches for 935 yards are, far and away, the best on the team.
1. Offensive line
The quarterbacks need to stay healthy, and the running backs need a little confidence heading into the postseason. That's on you guys, offensive line. Make it happen.
PREDICTION: Texans 23, Titans 9
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.