Hopes Dashed for Houston?
Tony Salinas: Hopes Dashed for Houston?
The way the mainstream media tells it, the Houston Texans have no chance to be much of a factor in the AFC Playoffs this year. The loss of Matt Schaub, and then Matt Leinart, has taken away any hopes for winning the conference and going to the Super Bowl.
Well, let me tell you...when a bunch of guys here that they have NO CHANCE to do something, they're likely to do what it takes to prove you wrong.
Now, I'm not saying that Houston should be favored against the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, or Joe Flacco in the AFC playoffs. They're not even favored Sunday at home against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. But, I will point out that:
Houston has been playing great defense this year, and a great defense always gives you a chance in the playoffs. If opponents are going to have trouble scoring on Houston...it's going to be far from easy to beat Houston in January.
Houston has been running the ball with authority all season, and a great running game always gives you a chance in the playoffs. This allows you to shorten the game and try to force a mistake that sets up easy points, or maybe make a big special teams play. Great opposing quarterbacks can't make plays from the bench.
Two years ago, the New York Jets barely made the playoffs, but then used their great defense and running games to make it all the way to the conference finals with a rookie quarterback. Nobody was taking them seriously as a championship threat when the playoffs started.
Last year, the New York Jets did the same thing! Tom Brady and Peyton Manning both lost home playoff games to the Jets...who were similar in style last year to what Houston will be bringing to the table this year.
Mark Sanchez and the Jets weren't favorites at any point in the playoffs, yet they went 4-2 the past two seasons and got very close to the Super Bowl.
Houston has a chance to have the same kind of run. Right now they're tied with several teams for the best record in the AFC at 8-3. Now, you can't assume that Houston is going to run the table with either C.J. Yates or Kellen Clemens running the show. But, they do have a very good chance of hosting a Wildcard game in the first round...against a team that really had to battle all through December to earn that spot. This gives them a shot to go in a road game against an AFC power well positioned to compete...probably in weather conditions that should help out their new style of play as well.
Here's what's ahead for the Texans, who enter this week at 8-3.
HOUSTON'S REMAINING GAMES
Today: home versus Atlanta (2-point underdog)
Dec. 11: at Cincinnati (road dog)
Dec. 18: home versus Carolina (probably small favorite)
Dec. 24: at Indianapolis (probably small favorite)
Jan. 1: home versus Tennessee (depends on importance)
That season finale may be irrelevant...may be important for possibly stealing a bye...or may actually be for the AFC South crown if Tennessee can get hot while Houston falls apart! I'll be watching Sunday's game with Atlanta very closely so I can get a read on best expectations for the rest of the season for this Houston team. I love betting "No Chance" situations...but it could be that the spirit doesn't really take hold until the playoffs when the media is disrespecting them. Or, maybe I've misread my fellow Texans and they're not going to show the gumption over the next two months that I'm expecting.
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