It seems like an eternity ago that the Houston Texans started the season 0-3. Since then the Texans have righted the ship and are one of the NFL’s hottest teams. All they have done is rattle off six consecutive wins and are in first place in the AFC South. Heading into the bye week the Texans are perfectly positioned to win their division and host a game in the playoffs.
Most recently the Texans escaped from Denver by the skin of their teeth with a 19-17 victory. Their record is now 6-3. They will use the bye week to rest and heal an array of wounded players, particularly offensive lineman. They enjoy a three-game lead in the AFC South and are the only team in the division playing above .500 football.
Heading into the bye week, most football experts agree that despite the Texans’ win streak, there is still room for improvement, especially in the area of offensive play-calling. The running back tandem of Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue has not been flashy, but efficient. The addition of D’Onta Foreman, who returns from the physically-unable-to-perform list, will add additional horsepower to the rushing game.
The passing game should really take off once newly acquired receiver Demaryius Thomas gets more indoctrinated into the offense. Add Thomas plus the continued evolution of the rookie trio of wideout Keke Coutee and tight ends Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins and you’ve got a variety of viable weapons at quarterback Deshaun Watson’s disposal.
Defensively, coordinator Romeo Crennel has been pressing all the right buttons. Ends J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney have been a formidable tandem on the defensive line. Safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson having been playing lights out in coverage and are a physical presence against the run.
Head coach Bill O’Brien reminds us that it’s a thin line between winning and losing in the NFL.
“Anytime you can go into a bye on a winning note, that’s really a great thing for your team,” O’Brien said. “It’s a very humbling league and the difference between when we were 0-3 and where we are now is not really much.
“We weren’t making the plays that we are making now. We have to remember where we came from and just continue to work hard and not get ahead of ourselves.
“We’ve got a big game and a great team with [coach Ray Gruden’s Redskins] coming up, so that’s going to be a real challenge on the road. They’re all hard. They just become harder and harder and I think our players understand that.”
O’Brien also appreciates the way his team has found a way to come through and win close games like the one with Denver.
“I don’t think any of our games have been wide margins, win or lose,” he said. “I thought, for instance, at the end of the [first] half, that was a great situational deal there where our defense held them and they went for a long field goal and we were able to get three points on the board off that. When you’re able to do things like that, that helps you win close games so hopefully that will help us moving forward.”
The ups and downs of the season have helped to define the character of the Texans in the mind of QB Watson.
“We don’t quit,” Watson said. “Everyone keeps believing. Everyone keeps fighting to the very end. That is what we do. Regardless of the situation or the adversity, we are always going to keep fighting. Everything comes down to the details…We did a good job staying in it and staying with it.”
With seven games remaining following the bye week and only two of those opponents having winning records, the Texans have a tremendous opportunity to make this a memorable season.