Can the magic be recaptured? - Jamie Squire
Before I get into a handful of things that are sure to happen in tomorrow afternoon's Wild Card game between the Bengals and Texans in Houston, a plea for some perspective on playoff football for Texans fans.
What a difference a year makes.
A year ago, Texans fans were ecstatic about Houston hosting a wild card playoff game. This year, you'd think the Texans were 4-12 instead of 12-4. Obviously, the big difference between last year and this year was expectations. Last year, after Matt Schaub was lost for the season, we were overjoyed with a playoff appearance. This year, Texans fans want--expect--considerably more. In a year, we've gone from being happy to be invited to the party to demanding a seat at the big boys' table.
Whether this is fair, or reasonable, or selfish, or or unabashedly insane isn't for me to say. It is reality, and because of that, the vast majority of the fan base is furious that the Texans are hosting a playoff game tomorrow. Think about that. The vast majority of us are FURIOUS the Texans are hosting--not just playing in--a playoff game tomorrow. Before the 2011 season, many Texans fans would have gladly sacrificed a finger (not a thumb, though; that's all that separates us from the animals) for the Texans to be playing meaningful football anywhere after the regular season concluded. The thought of the Texans performing well enough over the course of a regular season to actually earn the right to host a playoff game? The 2006 version of me would pass out at the mere thought of that coming to pass.
I suppose what I'm urging everyone to do is this: Remember your roots. As hacked off as you are that the Texans completely spit the bit over the last month, going from virtual lock for the AFC's No. 1 seed and all the advantages that come with it, remember 2002. And 2003. And 2004. And 2005. And 2006. And 2007. And 2008. And 2009. And 2010. And yes, remember 2011, when the prospect of the Texans being in the playoffs made you so excited you could barely sit still or hold a thought in your head. Hell, remember the dark years, after the Oilers left and before the Texans arrived.
The Houston Texans have a playoff game at Reliant Stadium tomorrow. Get happy.
On to the predictions, which will be very quick because it's been a truly rough week, even with the break for New Year's a few days ago.
1. Arian Foster: 22 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. 30+ of those yards will come on a single run.
2. J.J. Watt: Two sacks, one of which will cause a fumble that will be recovered by the Texans. What Watt did last year against the Bengals in intercepting Andy Dalton was positively freakish and will never be duplicated. He will nevertheless make his presence felt throughout the afternoon. Some of that evidence will be demonstrated by Andy Dalton throwing two picks.
3. Some fans see tomorrow as a referendum of sorts on Matt Schaub. I believe he'll answer the bell. Look for Gary Kubiak to have the Texans come out throwing the ball, utilizing short, quick routes to get The Schaub into a rhythm. Schaub will throw a horrendous interception at one point, and everyone will freak out. It will not be the first of many to come. Schaub will complete 60% of his passes. He will exceed 240 passing yards. And he will throw two touchdown passes (one to Owen Daniels, now that Kubes has read Brett's brilliant piece, and one to Andre Johnson, because he is Andre Johnson).
PUT YOUR NAME ON IT: I believe. Bengals 17, Texans 21.