December 6, 2016
Down the Stretch They Come
by Bob Hulsey
The Houston Texans enter the final quarter of the regular season in a three-way tie with Indianapolis and Tennessee. After three uninspiring yet close losses to Oakland, San Diego and Green Bay, the Texans return to the comfort of the AFC South for three of their last four games.
While the point differential is an embarrassing -50 on the season, the Texans boast a 3-0 record within their division and just need to stay even to win the AFC South by tiebreakers. Of course, the once 6-3 squad would have liked to have never been in the position to think about any tiebreakers.
Here's how the rest of the schedule looks for the three contenders after December 5th (with division records):
Houston (6-6, 3-0): at Indianapolis, vs Jacksonville, vs Cincinnati, at Tennessee.
Indianapolis (6-6, 2-2): vs Houston, at Minnesota, at Oakland, vs Jacksonville.
Tennessee (6-6, 1-3): vs Denver, at Kansas City, at Jacksonville, vs Houston.
The Texan offense ranks 28th in yards per game (316.1 yards) in the NFL. Brock Osweiler ranks 24th in QB rating (56.7). Lamar Miller is eighth in the NFL with 903 rushing yards. Houston is 29th in points average (17.3 per game).
The defense continues to do what it can to carry the club, ranking 13th in the league (21.4 points per game), standing fifth in pass defense (208.4 yards per game) but 19th against the run (107.7 yards per game).
Poor officiating plagued them in Mexico City against the Raiders, but poor decisions cost them in losses to San Diego and Green Bay. Some are beginning to question if Bill O'Brien is yet another from the Patriots' coaching tree that won't live up to the hype.
Osweiler is playing slightly better than he did earlier in the season. He seems to throw crisp passes, but his line isn't affording him much time to make decisions or look deep downfield as he had earlier in the year. If he's an improvement over Brian Hoyer, it is only marginally so, but how can we know until there's a decent offensive line in front of him?
You know all about the AFC South, but you may not recognize the Bengals when they visit NRG Stadium on Christmas Eve. A.J. Green and Giovanni Bernard will both likely be out, taking weapons away from Andy Dalton who has struggled in his career against the Texans. Maybe Houston won't need to bring out T.J. Yates this time.
Should the Texans make the playoffs, they are almost assuredly going to be the fourth seed like last year and could very easily have another return match with the Chiefs if the standings play out as they have up until now. It's easy to forget the Texans beat Kansas City back in September.
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