Some say that December is when real football is played. Love them or hate them, the Patriots are 51-9 under Bill Belichick in December (dating back to 2000). New England now has twelve consecutive years with double-digit wins. That, my friends, is the gold standard for the current era of the NFL. The record is held by the 49ers, who had ten or more wins in sixteen straight seasons (1983-1998).
Coach O'Brien is bringing some of that methodology and championship culture to Houston. Every year, there are teams in the NFL who make it to the playoffs and then fall short of winning the Super Bowl for one reason or another. A key player might get hurt, or officials make a bad call, or the ball bounces the other way to end things in heartbreak. That's why it is about consistently getting there each year, so your team has a shot at the championship as many times as possible. It's not about going "all-in" in a single season with big draft trades and free agent signings that leave the team a bleak future and no certainty of a championship. It's about being in position over and over to take your shot for the title.
This is is the time of year when winning teams lean into the wind, take no prisoners, and exert their will upon whomever would face them on the gridiron. This is when underdogs scrap and claw their way onto the stage to unseat the unsuspecting stalwarts. On that note, what a difference a Sunday in the NFL can make.
At 10 a.m. yesterday, before Week 14 kicked off, things looked like this:
Read on to see how yesterday's games shook things up across the AFC and what Texans' fans would like to see happen next to get Houston in position for the playoffs.
Remaining Regular Season Schedule
1st Seed: Patriots (10-3)
2nd Seed: Broncos (10-3)
3rd Seed: Colts (9-4)
4th Seed: Bengals (8-4-1)
There is no change at the top, with the Patriots and Broncos both winning this weekend. However, the Colts swapped positions with the Bengals, since Indy defeated Cleveland and Cincinnati fell to the Pittsburgh.
5th Seed: Steelers (8-5)
6th Seed: Chargers (8-5)
Remaining opponents: vs. Broncos (10-3), at 49ers (7-6), at Chiefs (7-6)
The Steelers took a strong leap forward by beating the Bengals, and I wouldn't be surprised if Pittsburgh ultimately wins out and takes the AFC North. The Steelers have an easier remaining schedule than Cincinnati, who could free-fall completely out of the postseason picture if they lose their next three games.
The Chargers dropped a notch from the 5th seed to the 6th seed by losing to the Patriots last night on Sunday Night Football. They have their work cut out for them with the Broncos up next and then ending the regular season in Kansas City.
IN THE HUNT:
Texans (7-6) Remaining opponents:at Colts (9-4), vs. Ravens (8-5), vs. Jaguars (2-11)
Dolphins (7-6) Remaining opponents: at Patriots (10-3), vs. Vikings (6-7), vs. Jets (2-11)
Chiefs (7-6) Remaining opponents: vs. Raiders (2-11), at Steelers (8-5), vs. Chargers (8-5)
Bills (7-6) Remaining opponents: vs. Packers (9-3), at Raiders (2-11), at Patriots (10-3)
Browns (7-6) Remaining opponents: vs. Bengals (8-4-1), at Panthers (4-8-1), at Ravens (8-5)
There was a lot of movement in this tightly packed group of AFC teams trying to earn a postseason berth:
- The Chiefs fell from the top of this pack after losing to the Cardinals.
- Buffalo lost to Denver and dropped from the second position all the way to second-to-last.
- Baltimore moved to the top of this group after knocking Miami from their 6th seed perch, and now the Dolphins find themselves in the middle of a pack of 7-6 teams.
- The Browns were in sole possession of their division a couple of weeks ago. Now they find themselves at the very bottom of a heap of wild card hopefuls. They had the Colts dead to rights yesterday, and then surrendered the game to Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton in the final minutes.
- Your Houston Texans took care business in Jacksonville. After a sluggish first half of play, Houston returned with some good second half adjustments and dominated on their way to victory. This vaulted the Texans from the back-end of this pack of hunters to second place behind the Ravens.
So what's next? Well, the most important game in franchise history awaits at Lucas Oil Stadium this week. If the Texans win that game, which would be a first in franchise history in that location, things get VERY interesting for a shot at the playoffs. After that, Houston has two home games to host the Ravens and Jaguars to close out the regular season. Let's deal with that after this very important week in Indy.
AFC Games to Watch
Dolphins at Patriots: Go Pats! I know, some of you can't stomach that, but if it helps the Texans...
Chargers: Go Broncos! Yeah, yeah. Pipe down and do what must be done.
Colts: Ahem, no comment. Bengals at Browns: Sinkhole or meteor perhaps? We can "try" to pull for Cleveland, but you know how they are. Steelers at Falcons: Come on Atlanta! We shared Hard Knocks with you this year, so give us some love!
Chiefs: Derek Carr and Khalil Mack need another week of winning to help knock out K.C.
Ravens: If the Raiders can dump the 49ers, anything is possible. Right?
Bills Do enough to win Rodgers, but make some mistakes to help J.J. Watt with the MVP race. Please?
Alright, Texans fans, now you know who to pull for in Week 15. First and foremost, Houston needs to go beat the Colts in their house. No matter what happens after that, it would easily be one of the top-five most significant wins in franchise history.
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