Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 14: Texans-Bears — Four Things To Watch For

J.J. Watt will be back in his natural habitat on Sunday, the frozen tundra of the Midwest.
J.J. Watt will be back in his natural habitat on Sunday, the frozen tundra of the Midwest. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Say what you will about the disappointment of a 4-8 season for the Houston Texans in 2020, but there is no denying the fact that they are anything but boring. After an 0-4 start, they whacked arguably the least popular sports figure in this city over the last ten years, Bill O'Brien, and began a search for a new head coach AND general manager. Two of their best players got popped for failing a PED test. Hell, even their EVP of Football Operations, a position that previously had not existed with the team, was the subject of a gigantic, unflattering deep dive on SI.com this week.

So while we wait for Cal McNair to end the Jack Easterby Era sometime (soon, hopefully?), there are still four actual games remaining to be played, beginning with a trip to frigid Chicago this weekend to take on a Bears team that is reeling. After a 5-1 start, they've lost six in a row, and they're closer to joining the Texans in the "head coach and GM search party" than they are the postseason.

Here are four things to watch, other than the thermometer in Chi-town this weekend....

4. Dream crusher effect
I
t's not just that the Texans fell from 4-7 to 4-8 last Saturday, but it's the WAY that they did it — a botched snap by Nick Martin as they sat on the doorstep of a last minute touchdown to ruin the Colts playoff push. That hurts. Add in the fact that, even if they win out, the best the Texans can do now is 8-8, and that's really a double dream-crusher effect. Typically, when teams have their seasons officially (or at least de facto mathematically) ended, there's a tendency to come out flat the next week. Let's see how professional and engaged the Texans are now that the season is REALLY, functionally over. Can Romeo Crennel get his team ready to play. For what it's worth, J.J. Watt seems ready....



3. J.J. Watt in his future habitat?
Speaking of J.J. Watt, we are four games away from massive speculation and conjecture over where he could be playing out the final year of his contract. He has one year at $17.5 million left on his contract, and with a new GM coming in to rebuild this roster, it will be fascinating to see if a new GM views Watt as the leader of the team looking to make one last playoff push as a Texan, or as an asset to possibly get flipped for valuable draft capital. If he does get moved, Watt would appear to have Green Bay on his short list, given Wisconsin being his home state. SO we will at least get a modified sneak preview this weekend, with Watt facing off against an NFC North foe in arctic conditions, which would become a regular thing, if he were moved to the Packers.

2. Running game ineptitude
Much like the game against the Lions a couple weeks ago on Thanksgiving, this game on Sunday matches up two of the worst rushing offenses in football. The Texans are dead last, and the Bears are not far ahead at 31st overall. My Texans postgame show cohost Clint Stoerner, who played professional football for about a decade and was a quarterback in the SEC, said that ON THE POSTGAME SHOW last weekend that the Texans' run game is the worst he's ever seen at any level. So naturally, offensive play caller Tim Kelly wants to feed RB David Johnson the ball even MORE....
Please get these O'Brien truthers out of here. Four more games... four more games....

1. Battle of 2017 QB stories
In a game matching up a 4-8 team and a 5-7 team, especially two teams that only play once every four years, it's tough to find juicy storylines, but this one is pretty good — in 2017, the Bears traded up to the No. 2  spot in the draft to take QB Mitchell Trubisky. This was the draft in which Patrick Mahomes went 10th and Deshaun Watson went 12th. Trubisky has been an abject failure, having been benched for Nick Foles earlier this season for several games, and Mahomes and Watson have gone on to become two of the very best quarterbacks in the league. The city of Chicago has wept over this development for two years now. It will be fun to watch it up close this weekend.

SPREAD: Texans -2
PREDICTION: Texans 23, Bears 20


Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast