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NFL: Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the halfway mark of the season! It goes without saying that the Texans are in a truly unexpected position, but it’s worth noting how strange the road here has been. Declining play from J.J. Watt, Benardrick McKinney’s season ending injury, Zach Cunningham’s collapse, the offense’s dumbfounding designs, and Bill O’Brien’s outing after an 0-4 start to top it all off. Bill O’Brien had mythical influence and power within the organization, his demise seemingly impossible from outside spectators. But, as with every surprise regicide, it was rooted in turmoil from within. Jack Easterby had been in lock-step with O’Brien, joining in his spoils of war. But, in controversy, Easterby defected from O’Brien’s church, and revealed himself to be a vital pillar to B.O.B’s house of cards. Jack Easterby has taken the role of Cardinal Richelieu, and was prepared the assume absolute power once O’Brien’s dominance was questioned by even his most ardent followers. In time, we will understand more and more the Draconian world O’Brien attempted the realize and Easterby’s malignant eminence, but for now, we only know one is gone and one remains.

Where were we last year, during the height of O’Brien’s power? Deep into the playoff hunt, the Texans were squaring off against the Oakland Raiders in a pivotal matchup between similarly ranked teams. The Texans were coming off a crushing loss against the Colts and seeking to get back on track, while the Raiders had put together a few good games and were ready to make their Chucky-shaped mark on the NFL once again.

They exchanged body blows and haymakers with Deshaun Watson, the lead going back and forth until one pivotal moment: A rogue foot of a Raiders’ defender had been launched into Deshaun Watson’s eye, and he had had enough. Immediately after getting kicked in the eye, Watson threw a touchdown pass to Darren Fells that would cement the Texans’ victory and put them right back in the mix of the AFC South title race.

Here’s what Dan Hanzus of NFL.com was saying about the Texans at this time in 2019:

Rank 8: Houston Texans (5-3)

Previous rank:*No. 9*

J.J. Watt told the world he is “gutted” after learning his season has been ended by a torn pec muscle suffered in Sunday’s win over the Raiders. Bill O’Brien can relate. The Texans’ head coach and de facto general manager went all in on 2019, making a series of aggressive roster moves with the goal of getting Houston to its first Super Bowl in February. Even with Watt, who remained an All-Pro stud before his latest injury, the Texans were facing an uphill challenge as they battled both inconsistencies in their week-to-week play and the grim understanding that the defending Super Bowl-champion Patriots have that 16-0 glow. Losing Watt significantly weakens Houston — that much is obvious. Does it remove the Texans from the conversation of legitimate contenders? Counting out any team led by a player as special as Deshaun Watson would be foolish, but this was an undeniably crushing blow.

What a miracle finish orchestrated by Deshaun Watson. Extending the play with his legs, staying on his feet while nearly getting sacked, and getting kicked in the face during a touchdown pass to win the game with only a few minutes left. I don’t think any play exemplifies Deshaun Watson more than this. Every game, his magic makes a tangible difference in the outcome, and can single-handedly pull his team into the winning circle. As lost and terrible this season is, at least we have our quarterback. Here’s where the sports world is ranking the Houston Texans today:

ESPN:

26. Houston Texans (1-6)

Week 8 ranking: 26

Reason for optimism: QB Deshaun Watson

The Texans are 1-6, but one of the few points of optimism for the future is that they have a franchise quarterback under a long-term contract. Even without his former No. 1 target, DeAndre Hopkins, Watson has thrown for at least 300 yards in his past four games and has 11 touchdowns in that span. — Sarah Barshop

NFL.COM:

26. Houston Texans (1-6)

Previous rank: No. 24

The season is lost, the head coach is already history and the Texans find themselves in an unenviable place — as a team set up for neither the present nor the future. A 1-6 record typically brings a silver lining in the form of a likely top-10 draft pick to come, but Houston sent that consolation prize to the Dolphins as part of the Laremy Tunsil mega-trade in 2019. (If you dare to look, Miami is currently set up to pick fourth overall in Houston’s spot.) Tunsil is a great talent who brought stability to left tackle, but the cost is steep when you combine the draft assets surrendered with Tunsil’s top-of-the-market price tag.

CBS SPORTS:

29. Texans ( 1-6)

They come off the bye with an eye on next year. They are considering trading some of their players to get picks, which is clearly look-ahead mode.

PRO FOOTBALL TALK:

29. Texans (No. 30; 1-6): The ultimate test of a team’s relevance is this — did anyone notice they didn’t play this weekend?

THE RINGER:

29. Houston Texans (1-6)

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED:

29. Houston Texans (1–6)

Last week: Bye

Next week: at Jacksonville

The Texans could still be players before today’s trade deadline (Will Fuller?), selling on what has quickly become a lost season. The team’s dearth of draft capital will be an impediment to whatever rebuilding the next regime will undertake.

BLEACHER REPORT:

28. Houston Texans (1-6)

High: 27

Low: 29

Last Week: 28

Week 8 Result: Bye Week

It wasn’t supposed to be like this in Houston.

Entering the 2020 season, the Texans were the defending AFC South champions. The team had aspirations of a deep playoff run, maybe even repping the AFC in Super Bowl LV.

Instead, the Texans headed into their bye week with one win in seven games. Head coach/general manager Bill O’Brien has already been fired. And with the trade deadline right around the corner, some think a Texans team light on draft capital could be on the verge of a fire sale.

“They could make five trades if they wanted to,” one NFL executive told Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. “I’m not sure how far they’ll go with it.”

That J.J. Watt’s name has been mentioned more than once in trade speculationshows how far this team has plummeted in the span of a couple of months. In September, the notion of trading the heart and soul of the franchise would have been laughable.

No one is laughing in Houston in November.

YAHOO! SPORTS:

26. Houston Texans (1-6, LW: 25)

Texans chairman and COO Cal McNair had this to say about the trade deadline on KILT 610, via the Houston Chronicle: “No big moves. You’ll see some little things that happened over the weekend. We like our players. We have a lot to play for.” Maybe that’s to maintain some leverage, but you wonder which team McNair is watching when he says that.

Not too much change here due to the bye week preventing the Texans from sinking even further. There really isn’t much farther down to go from 26-29, but at least we’re not the Jets! Here’s my personal power rankings entering the final half of the season:

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

This week was a vital one for many teams trying to keep their season alive, specifically for the Broncos, Chargers, Patriots, and Panthers. I was certain the Chargers had turned the corner and Justin Herbert would lead them to another victory, but an absolutely fantastic 21 point collapse that only the Chargers could accomplish demolished their playoff hopes and gave the Broncos an avenue to reviving their season. The Panthers continue to impress every week, but a loss to the Falcons makes it an uphill battle to a good record. The Patriots, to the delight of the entire country, saw their playoff hopes go down the drain as the Bills forced a game-sealing fumble and the Dolphins upset the Rams to establish a strong lead against their northern rival. The 49ers sadly plummet again with the losses of Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle for the second time this season, while Miami takes their place as the scrappy team that has a real shot at making the post-season.

The Texans drop two spots since the Vikings and Falcons had statement wins this weekend and I couldn’t justify placing them under our Houston team. I still can’t believe the Chargers lost that game, I was really rooting for them to go on a run with their rookie quarterback playing like an MVP.

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