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Things Change: On Matt Leinart, T.J. Yates, And Your Houston Texans

I bet you never thought you'd see this during the 2011 regular season.
I bet you never thought you'd see this during the 2011 regular season.

Losing your starting quarterback is a gigantic blow. Losing your backup quarterback is perhaps an even bigger blow, particularly when your third string quarterback is a rookie who has never taken a regular season snap in the NFL.

Going from Matt Schaub to Matt Leinart to T.J. Yates is a colossal downer. Dress it up all you want; it still sucks. Leinart didn't look particularly good before he got hurt today, and the Texans surely unveiled an even more conservative game plan to protect Yates in his wholly unexpected professional debut, but let's face the facts. Reasonable expectations for what the Texans can do this year have changed.

And that's okay. We can still enjoy the ride.

Your Houston Texans are 8-3. Your Houston Texans are going to win the AFC South, and your Houston Texans are going to host a playoff game. None of those things have ever happened before. Before the season started, if you'd told me that the Texans would be 8-3 after 11 games, in the driver's seat for the division title, and on track for a home playoff game (with an outside chance at a first-round bye), I would have been ecstatic. Texans fans have never experienced anything resembling that kind of success.

Prior to Schaub getting hurt, the Texans were playing well enough that a deep playoff run in the franchise's maiden voyage to the postseason was not out of the question. When Schaub went down, those dreams became less realistic, but we could still rationalize how, if things broke right, a playoff run was feasible. Now, with the very unexpected development that a rookie fifth-round pick will be playing the most important position on the field as the Texans enter the playoffs for the first time, we have to adjust our expectations again. Looking at things objectively, it's hard to imagine T.J. Yates leading the Texans to a victory in the playoffs. It's certainly not something I'd bet on.

And yet...

Your Houston Texans have a defense the likes of which very few teams can boast. Your Houston Texans still trot Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Owen Daniels, and a very solid offensive line out for (nearly) every offensive snap. While it's not probable, given who'll likely be quarterbacking the Texans in the playoffs and the possible opponents in that first playoff game, it's not insane to believe that the Texans could make things interesting for their first postseason opponent. It might be insane to expect a playoff win, but it's not insane to think there's a chance the Texans' defense could keep things close enough that something memorable could happen. I mean, we live in a world where Case McCoy just led a game-winning drive at Texas A&M. Nothing is off limits.

I guess what I'm saying is that the Texans and their fans are playing with house money. They've lost their starting QB. They've lost their backup QB. They're presumably starting a rookie for the rest of the season. That doesn't happen to playoff teams in the NFL.

No one expects the Texans to do anything from here on out. They have enough of a cushion in the AFC South and a kind enough schedule the rest of the way to render a tenth consecutive year without a postseason berth a very unlikely scenario, but anything beyond one-and-done in the playoffs would currently qualify as little more than a pipe dream.

There's something liberating about a complete evisceration of expectations. No one expects anything of these Houston Texans, and that means anything they do from here on out is gravy. Instead of being bitter about the Texans' bad beat, I'm going to enjoy the ride. You never know what'll happen.

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