Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
The next few weeks are a snapshot of January.
The Houston Texans’ bye week couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. With several key players needing to rest and heal, with arguably the second toughest stretch on the 2019 schedule right outside their front door, Houston certainly needed the time to take a breather and focus in on the future.
While many of us didn’t expect the Texans to come through the early portion of the season as well as they did, there are still a few skeptics eyeballing the next three games and wondering if Houston ends this stretch with AFC crown implications or a .500 record.
Over the next few weeks, the Texans will face the 7-2 Lamar Jackson led Baltimore Ravens, their eternal nemesis, the 5-4 Indianapolis Colts, and the 8-1 Dark Lord of the Gridiron led New England Patriots.
The NFL Playoff Picture
— SportsLine (@SportsLine) November 12, 2019
At 6-3, Houston is essentially in control of their own destiny right now. Win these three games, and they assure themselves another AFC South title and the automatic playoff ticket that comes with it.
Additionally, if they win these these next three, they’ll put the entire NFL on notice that this team is made up of winners, through and through.
Houston Texans vs. Baltimore Ravens
While Deshaun Watson is widely heralded as the NFL’s Michael Jordan, the Ravens have one of the most electric quarterbacks to hit the league since Michael Vick in Lamar Jackson. The two QBs are not strangers to one another, particularly after Jackson beat out Watson for the Heisman in 2016.
While Jackson took the Heisman, Watson took the game and eventually the National Championship.
But the Baltimore Ravens aren’t the Louisville Cardinals. No matter what happens, this game should be one of the highlights of the 2019 NFL season for anyone who truly loves football.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans
Next up, the Texans welcome the Colts to NRG sSadium for Thursday Night Football. Coming off four days of rest to face Indy will be another test of this team’s mettle. Lose and they let Indy back in the playoff door. Win and they all but seal up the division.
Instead of any in-depth commentary or stats analysis, let’s just put this here and move on:
New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans
The real test comes on Sunday, December 1st, when O’BOB-One and Young Skywalker (Bill O’Brien and Deshaun Watson) face Darth Belichick and Kylo Brady at night on the national stage.
If the Texans are to show the world that they’re for real, they have to beat the New England Patriots. If they can do so on Sunday Night Football in front of a national audience with the playoffs right around the corner, all the criticism of Bill O’Brien should ebb away. When this happens, it will be a symbolic passing of the torch of sorts, from Tom Brady to Deshaun Watson. Let’s face it…if Brady is handing out any torches out, Watson needs to be on the receiving end.
Over the course of Bill O’Brien’s career as an NFL head coach, he’s 0-5 versus his old team. The Patriots have outscored the Texans 151-75 in that span as well. However, since Deshaun Watson entered the picture, the two meetings have been decided by a grand total of ten points. While Watson continues to climb towards his nearly unseen ceiling, Brady and the Patriots are getting long in the tooth.
To be clear, this is certainly a winnable game for the Texans. The sort of performance the Texans give will speak volumes to the legacy of Bill O’Brien. After the Ravens handed New England their first loss of the season, the AFC leading Patriots now must face the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys prior to their date with Bill O’Brien’s crew. If O’Brien and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel can glean more information on how to beat the Pats from those two games, Deshaun Watson might just put his wizard hat on and zap the Patriots’ defense hard enough for Houston to pull this one out.
What do you think about this stretch? Think the Texans take all three games? Have them at a split decision? Or are you looking for pieces of the fallen sky?