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2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week Twelve

Where do we land after thumping the Patriots?

NFL: New England Patriots at Houston Texans Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

We beat the Patriots! For the second time in a row! In a shocking game from both teams, the Texans exit this game feeling better than they have all season, while the Patriots November surge sinks into a valley unknown to those New Englanders. For the first time this year, we can proudly say that the Texans defense stood up and challenged an opposing offense that sought to force its will every drive through a pounding rushing attack lead by Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead. Coming into this game, I assumed the Patriots consistent rushing attack would plow through our shoddy defensive line like a hot knife through butter, and the only road toward victory would be a shootout. While the defense was still not great, it held its own against potential future Texans head coach Josh McDaniels’ game plan.

Deshaun Watson, once again, was a spectacle in his abilities to extend plays and launch fireworks downfield to receivers Will Fuller V and Brandin Cooks. For another game this season, the unstoppable passing offense heralded by a coach no longer on the team showed up and made an embarrassment of Belichick’s endlessly praised defensive backfield. J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore were basically non-factors in this game, and Watson was often given space and time to decide which open receiver he wants to throw to the most. The Patriots have been masquerading as a decent team for the better part of the entire season, and this might have been the game where the facade fell off.

But, right now, it’s time to step into the time machine! Where were the Texans exactly one year ago? Well, for the first time this season, where we were in 2019 was probably worse than where we are now. It was the Baltimore game.

What was supposed to be a pivotal matchup between two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, a potential AFC Championship preview, turned out to be possibly the most embarrassing blowout of the O’Brien era. The 6-3 Texans came into Baltimore hot off a bye week, prepared to face future MVP Lamar Jackson, and got completely wiped off the map. Deshaun Watson got pressured nearly every snap and was unable to ever get anything going, and the defense had no idea how to stop Baltimore dynamic rushing attack. This was basically the game that Lamar Jackson used to tell the league he’s definitely the MVP. The final score was 7-41, and it certainly felt like it. It was basically the opposite of what this past Sunday’s game was like, which is a very encouraging sign!

Here’s what Dan Hanzus of NFL.COM had to say about us after that abysmal attempt at football:

10. Houston Texans (6-4)

Previous rank:*No. 9*

Yep, it was your classic Bury The Ball Game in Baltimore, where the Texans were humbled and embarrassed and liquified into paste by the Ravens in a 41-7 rout. This was supposed to be a shootout featuring two of the great young quarterbacks in the game, but while Lamar Jackson continued his season-long tear, Deshaun Watson found himself constantly under siege and with little opportunity to spin his own signature brand of magic. The offensive line, so improved in the season’s first 10 games, allowed seven sacks in a poor performance. The defense, which dominated the Jags prior to the bye, looked like a vulnerable unit that could regress to average without J.J. Watt, lost for the year in Week 8, wreaking havoc in the trenches. The Texans are surely shocked by how poorly things went on Sunday, but there’s no time to sulk. The AFC South could be on the line against the Colts on Thursday Night Football.

But, all of that is just dust in the wind, now. Exactly one year after the Texans fell apart at Baltimore, they were able to put it all together against the Patriots in NRG Stadium. Sunday’s game was the best team win of the season, and is the exact kind of game I think we all needed to feel good about Houston football, again. There’s still a long road towards contention, but it’s encouraging to see that this team already has a core that is worth fighting for. Here’s what the analysts are saying about us after the win:

ESPN:

27. Houston Texans (3-7)

Week 11 ranking: 28

What they’re thankful for: QB Deshaun Watson

As the McNair family looks for the Texans’ next general manager and head coach, they should be thankful for the quarterback they can build around. Although the Texans are 3-7, that record is not indicative of how well Watson has played. And on Sunday against the Patriots, he showed just how much he has had to do to will the Texans to a win, accounting for 380 of Houston’s 399 net yards. He also scored all three of the Texans’ touchdowns. — Sarah Barshop

NFL.COM:

24. Houston Texans (3-7)

Previous rank: No. 28

Add another voice to the chorus reminding the general public that none of the Texans’ myriad issues this season is a reflection on the quarterback play of Deshaun Watson. He’s been excellent this season, a superstar in need of better structure around him. On Sunday, Watson got some help in a 27-20 win over the Patriots. The defense played its best game of the year, holding the third-ranked New England running game to just 86 yards. Leading the charge on the front line was, of course, J.J. Watt, who set a career high with four batted passes. His final pass breakup came at an opportune time, a third-down swat when the Patriots were driving for the game-tying score in the final minutes. In a time of transition for the franchise, Texans fans should enjoy Watt while they still can.

CBS SPORTS:

20. Texans (3-7)

They had their best game of the year against the Patriots. That’s the offense we expected to see this season.

PRO FOOTBALL TALK:

25. Texans (No. 28; 3-7): When it comes to finding a new coach, the presence of Deshaun Watson more than makes up for the presence of Jack Easterby.

THE RINGER:

27. Houston Texans (3-7)

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED:

28. Houston Texans (3–7)

Last week: Win vs. New England 27–20

This week: at Detroit (Thursday)

Sunday was their first win of the season over a team whose name doesn’t rhyme with “Schmacksonville Craguars.” It was also a reminder that Deshaun Watson is, more often than not, the best player on the field in every Texans game.

BLEACHER REPORT:

23. Houston Texans (3-7)

High: 19

Low: 27

Last Week: 26

Week 11 Result: Won vs. New England 27-20

The Houston Texans haven’t had much to cheer about in 2020. Entering Week 11, Houston’s only two wins of the season had come against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Beating a deeply flawed New England Patriots team isn’t going to fix all that ails the Texans or turn around what has been a mostly miserable season. But star defensive end J.J. Watt was glad to see the team come out on top.

“It was all right,” Watt told reporters. “We got a win. That’s what you’re looking for. That’s what you’re going for, so it was good.”

Watt’s future with the franchise is one of the massive questions the team faces in the offseason. The franchise has already begun the search for a new head coach and general manager—a search included seeking quarterback Deshaun Watson’s opinion, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

But for one day at least, all the uncertainty took a back seat to the welcome (and all too rare in 2020) sight of the Texans’ winning a ballgame.

YAHOO! SPORTS:

26. Houston Texans (3-7, LW: 29)

Deshaun Watson had 344 yards and two touchdowns in a win. He rushed for a score, too. If you are into judging quarterbacks based on their “record,” watch Watson play and try to convince anyone he’s a 3-7 quarterback.

Since a sizable portion of the NFL media is still in love with the Patriots and ranking them well above their pay grade because of past success, there’s a lot of disagreement of where exactly the Texans should be after beating them. One analyst keeps us low at rank 28, while another has thrown us the whole way up to rank 20. This week might have the most variance of opinion among the power ranking cognoscenti, mostly because nobody wants to admit the Patriots are a bad team. But, there’s one thing everyone agrees on: Deshaun Watson is a phenomenal quarterback.

Glad to get another win. Here’s my rankings for this week:

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

A little movement in the top third as the Colts, Rams, and Titans get statement wins that will prove vital in the playoff push, while Packers, Buccaneers, and Ravens continue to reveal their mortality. The Ravens are in the most dire of circumstances, now third in the AFC North and an upcoming Thanksgiving showdown at Pittsburgh. In just a few weeks, the Ravens were within striking distance of a the Chiefs and Steelers for the #1 seed, but are now in the midst of a dogfight with the Dolphins and Raiders for a wildcard spot. Speaking of the Dolphins, what a deflating loss for them at Denver. They had a shot to dramatically increase their likelihood of making the playoffs this week with the Raiders and Ravens both losing, but couldn’t win at Mile High as the Broncos seek to start another late season surge that will certainly come up a few games short.

More movement in the bottom half of the rankings as several fringe playoff teams lost their games to worse competition. The aforementioned Dolphins dropped their game against the Broncos, the Lions don’t even show up against a severely undermanned Panthers team, and the Vikings drop a must-win game against the Cowboys. I couldn’t bring it in me to lower them since they played so well on offense in that game, and I’m hoping it was just a case of Andy Dalton surprising that young Vikings defense by playing well, but now Minnesota must win out and beat either Tampa Bay or New Orleans in order to finish with a winning record. It’s possible, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be the team that has to play them in a wildcard round, but the chips are now stacked against them. But, the real story is the Lions inexcusable loss against the Panthers, sinking their playoff hopes and (hopefully) cementing Patricia’s coaching tenure as one of the worst in recent NFL history. We get to play the Lions on Thanksgiving, which, if this game is any indication, should be a feast for the Houston faithful. Winning is fun, but winning on Thanksgiving? While eating turkey and stuffing? Sounds like a good Thursday to me!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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