The Houston Texans have heard all the talk before, but this week, it has a more urgency to it. While the Texans understand that the Patriots are the team to beat in the AFC, there is no doubt that Bill O’Brien and his club have every confidence that they can beat this Patriots team. Just ask former Patriot and current Texan Vince Wilfork.
“At this level, you have to be a tight-knit group in crunch time, in critical situations,” Wilfork said. “We’re in it right now. We’re in a playoff game and you have a shot to give yourself a chance to play for the Big Dance. We’re in that spot. So it will have no bearings on how we’ll go up there and how we’ll feel because of what somebody else said. We’re going to go out and play our tails off.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is of course downplaying the favorites status, as is his teams way, and kept a straight face when he said “This will be a big challenge for us this week…”
“This will be a big challenge for us this week to be able to compete with them.” ~Bill Bilichek~
This time last season, the Houston Texans were the AFC South winners and in the Wild Card game against a the Kansas City Chiefs. The outcome was not what they wanted nor predicted as Kansas City took the Texans to task to the tune of 30-0.
Fast forward a year and the Texans are again the Wild Card game only this time against an Oakland Raiders team that will be starting a rookie at quarterback. The Texans may have been in the same situation with Rookie Tom Savage if he had not been knocked out of the final game of the season. With that, Brock Osweiler will get the start with Brandon Weeden as his backup. Savage went down in the final game of the season against the Titans and went into the NFL concussion protocol and was replaced by Osweiler. Head Coach Bill O’Brien announced that Osweiler would start over Savage whether or not he cleared the NFL concussion protocol.
The Raiders have had quarterback troubles ever since Derek Carr went down in week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts with what would be determined to be a broken fibula. He was replaced by Matt McGloin who in turn was knocked out the game in a week 17 loss against the Denver Broncos. Rookie Connor Cook replaced McGloin and it was announced by the Raiders that Cook would start against the Texans, which indicates that McGloin is not healthy enough to play.
The Houston Texans are still in command of the AFC South and the Raiders in command of the AFC West but these are two very different teams.
While the Lions are enjoying their rise in the NFL and enjoying the wins, the Texans are taking their wins very hard and most of the blame falls at the hands of QB Brock Osweiler. Osweiler, who 156 of 268 (58.2%) is currently the 20th ranked quarterback in the league and coming off a 27-9 thrashing at the hands of the Denver Broncos.
Still, the Texans and especially Osweiler have a lot to prove especially that the $72 million contract was money well spent (even at 5.2 yards per pass possession) and Bill O’Brien has no intention of switching quarterbacks at this point.
“He’s a good player,” O’Brien said. “I think it’s very difficult to come into a new system and a new team and just pick it up right away. I think everybody has to do a better job.”
“I think he can play better,” said O’Brien. “I know that the receivers can run routes better. We continue to work and we continue to go down the same inconsistent road, but eventually we have to find consistency or we’re not going to be where we want to be.”
But not all the blame goes on Osweiler and the offense. With the loss of JJ Watt, the run defense has sunk to 29th place in the league after Denver ran up 192 rushing yards on them.
“Yeah, it’s not very good,” O’Brien said of his team’s run defense. “We gave up 190 yards rushing (against the Broncos). I think we all have to do a better job. We’ve got to coach it better. We’ve got to get off blocks better. We’ve got to tackle better.”
“We’re going to have to really study hard here on Detroit and figure out what we need to do to stop the run, because it has to get a lot better,” O’Brien said.