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2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week Six

Where are the Texans ranked after their first win of the season?

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NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After firing Head Coach/GM Bill O’Brien, your Houston Texans finally won a football game. The offense was finally soaring downfield as written in the prophecy, a strong lead was taken, and the Texans showed comfortable victories against the Jaguars can still be the norm in the post-O’Brien era.

In a cruel twist, Deshaun Watson had by far his best game as a quarterback this year after supposed quarterback whisperer that was Bill O’Brien had departed. 71% completion percentage, 359 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and a 109.1 passer rating. Besides the interceptions, Watson had a fantastic day on the range, showing everyone what a passing attack featuring Will Fuller V and Brandin Cooks should look like.

Those high scoring, 30+ point games that defined Watson’s brief rookie campaign went from a herald of a new day to a bygone era that was over before it got started. From Weeks Three to Eight, the 2017 Houston Texans had five straight weeks where they scored 30+ points on offense, even putting up one more big game against the Arizona Cardinals with Tom Savage to round out the year total of offensive showcases to six. In all of 2018, that tally had dropped to four, and in 2019, it fell to two. It took two full years with Deshaun Watson under center for Bill O’Brien to equal the same amount of offensive production he achieved in 2017. There are plenty of theories and explanations for this stagnation (many of which you can read on this very website), but most boil down to increasingly conservative playcalling, failure to take advantage of Watson’s strengths, and refusal to adapt the gameplan when such was demanded over and over again. Hopefully, with the Baron of Boring Offenses now fired and interim coordinators free to do what they want, a return to that elusive period in Texans history is in the cards.

In fact, it was the same time just last season that one of such high-scoring games played out in wondrous fashion. One of the most exciting games in Deshaun’s Watson career so far, the Falcons-Texans game showcased what was possible when the Texans’ offense was humming. Here’s what Dan Hanzus of NFL.com had to say about our Houston team this time a year ago:

NFL.COM (2019):

12. Houston Texans (3-2)

Previous Rank: 15

Sunday was another reminder that the Texans can look like a bona fide AFC superpower when they hammer the throttle down. Deshaun Watson had one of his Jordan-like days against the Bucs, finishing 28-of-33 for 426 yards and five touchdowns in a 53-32 win over the Falcons. It was a totally different scene after the Panthers shut down the Houston offense in Week 4. Watson is a superstar on a team that has a few. DeAndre Hopkins is a top-five wide receiver, while defensive lineman J.J. Watt is one of the greatest to ever play. No. 2 receiver Will Fuller isn’t in that club yet, but he played like a damn Hall of Famer against Atlanta. The incredible 14/217/3 line was Fuller playing at the top of his abilities — as we saw before last year’s knee injury, when he had 15.7 yards per catch, he’s a special talent in his own right. The Texans are scary.

If only we could look back to this game as that start of something special rather than a brief aberration in a sea of wasted potential. Regardless, that era has come to an end, and the interim staff has already gotten back to scoring plenty of points, a promising sign. Both that and a win are sure to push Houston a bit higher in this week’s power rankings, but we are still 1-4, so don’t go in expecting too much. Here they are:

ESPN:

24. Houston Texans

Week 5 ranking: 23

Biggest weakness: Slow starts

Through five games, the Texans have only gotten one first down on their opening drives. That one came Sunday, when Deshaun Watson threw a 36-yard pass to Brandin Cooks on Houston’s first offensive play of the game. Still, the Texans didn’t get another first down on the drive. And they have yet to score on their opening possession. That might be OK against the now 1-4 Jaguars, but Houston needs to get off to a faster start if it wants to keep pace with some of the better teams coming up on the schedule, including the Titans and Packers. — Sarah Barshop

NFL.COM:

Previous rank: No. 29

Let’s give some love to Romeo Crennel, who became the oldest head coach in NFL history on Sunday, then led the Texans to their ever-elusive first victory of the season. Deshaun Watson threw for a season-high 359 yards and three touchdowns, and the Houston defense took advantage of Jacksonville mistakes to put the game away in the second half. Two performances that stood out: A week after being shut out in a loss to the Vikings, Brandin Cooks enjoyed season highs in catches (eight), receiving yards (161) and touchdowns (one). Houston also finally got a lift from its ground game in the form of David Johnson, who went over 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time since Week 1. Things get interesting in the AFC South if the Texans can beat the Titans in Week 6.

CBS SPORTS:

27. Houston Texans (1-4)

Previous Rank: 25

The firing of Bill O’Brien helped this team get some juice, but they still need to play better than they did against Jacksonville. At least Deshaun Watson played better.

PRO FOOTBALL TALK:

26. Texans (No. 30; 1-4): The Artificial Interim Coach Bounce is real.

PRO FOOTBALL FOCUS:

22. HOUSTON TEXANS

Projected Win Total: 6.0

Playoff Odds: 5%

Highest-Graded Player: OT Laremy Tunsil (84.1)

THE RINGER:

26. Houston Texans (1-4)

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

22. Houston Texans

Last week: Win vs. Jacksonville 30-14

Next week: at Tennessee

Romeo Crennel is now 3-1 career as an interim head coach, so if Cal McNair and Jack Easterby know what they’re doing they’ll just leave the interim tag on him and finish 9-7. Sunday against the Jaguars was the first time Houston’s receivers consistently won this season—though if they couldn’t win going against what was largely Jacksonville’s practice squad defense it would have been time to pack it in for 2020.

BLEACHER REPORT:

25. Houston Texans (1-4)

High: 23

Low: 26

Last Week: 29

Week 5 Result: Won vs. Jacksonville 30-14

As it turns out, all the Houston Texans had to do to win a game in 2020 was fire Bill O’Brien.

Kidding aside, O’Brien was hardly the sole reason that the Texans started the season in disastrous fashion. But there’s no denying that under interim head coach Romeo Crennel, the Texans played their best game of the year while handling the Jaguars at home Sunday.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for a season-high 359 yards and three scores. Running back David Johnson topped 100 total yards on 19 touches. And after spending the first month of the season in witness protection, wide receiver Brandin Cooks exploded for 161 yards and a score on eight catches.

This one win doesn’t erase the Texans’ miserable September, nor does it dig them out of the hole they’ve fallen into in the AFC South. But at least Houston now has some positive momentum ahead of next week’s trip to Tennessee.

YAHOO! SPORTS

24. Houston Texans (1-4, LW: 26)

Sunday’s win must have been nice for Romeo Crennel. Crennel, Houston’s interim coach, hasn’t been a head coach since a horrible 2-14 season in 2012 with the Kansas City Chiefs. At age 73, he’s not going to get another permanent head coaching job. He is a football lifer, a great defensive coach and him being able to lead the Texans the rest of the season is a fun story.

To close things out, here are my personal power rankings after five weeks of games:

  1. Green Bay Packers (Last Week: 2)
  2. Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: 6)
  3. Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: 1)
  4. Tennessee Titans (Last Week: 9)
  5. Pittsburgh Steelers (Last Week: 5)
  6. Baltimore Ravens (Last Week: 4)
  7. Buffalo Bills (Last Week: 3)
  8. Los Angeles Rams (Last Week: 7)
  9. Cleveland Browns (Last Week: 13)
  10. Chicago Bears (Last Week: 14)
  11. New England Patriots (Last Week: 10)
  12. Las Vegas Raiders (Last Week: 16)
  13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last Week: 8)
  14. New Orleans Saints (Last Week: 12)
  15. Indianapolis Colts (Last Week: 11)
  16. Carolina Panthers (Last Week: 17)
  17. Arizona Cardinals (Last Week: 15)
  18. Miami Dolphins (Last Week: 22)
  19. Minnesota Vikings (Last Week: 23)
  20. Los Angeles Chargers (Last Week: 18)
  21. Dallas Cowboys (Last Week: 19)
  22. Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: 20)
  23. Houston Texans (Last Week: 26)
  24. San Francisco 49ers (Last Week: 21)
  25. Cincinnati Bengals (Last Week: 24)
  26. Detroit Lions (Last Week: 25)
  27. Denver Broncos (Last Week: 29)
  28. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last Week: 28)
  29. Atlanta Falcons (Last Week: 27)
  30. New York Giants (Last Week: 31)
  31. Washington Football Team (Last Week: 30)
  32. New York Jets (Last Week: 32)

Beating the Jaguars in convincing fashion lifts the Texans three spaces higher than last week. The defense looked slightly better than before, but that may just be a case of a depleted Jags’ offense trying to keep up with a Houston offense hitting its stride. Beating Jacksonville still isn’t much to celebrate, but it’s a nice step forward for a team that appeared completely lost against Pittsburgh and Minnesota. We still have a long way to go, but if Tim Kelly puts the ball in Deshaun Watson’s hands, we’ll have a shot every week. Kenneth Arthur of Bolts From The Blue put it best when describing Justin Herbert’s performance against the Saints:

Thirteen quarterbacks have a passer rating over 100 and only Herbert, Deshaun Watson (100.5 rating, 1-4 record) have losing records among them.

Both Herbert and Watson are obvious bright spots for their teams and will keep their team in games even when the defense fails them time and time again. While it’s not comforting to share company with the Chargers as the only teams in the NFL to have an exceptional quarterback with losing records, it’s nice to know DW4 will almost always give us a chance at victory.

What do you think? Where is the best spot for the Texans on the rankings? Let us know in the comments!

Follow me on Twitter: @FizzyJoe