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NFL: Houston Texans at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Prepared to enter this article full of the bloated arrogance that only a Matt Patricia coached defense could give a football fan, I was ready to sing the praises of the Texans for their complete dismantlement of the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. That harvest contained a thriving Duke Johnson, a resurgent J.J. Watt, a completely unstoppable Will Fuller, and MVP candidate Deshaun Watson firing on all cylinders. In this season’s first winning streak, the Texans looked like a legitimately dangerous football team that had an offense any team would sweat about. In fact, the lack of it’s production at the beginning of the season got one Bill Belichick disciple fired, and once it starting functioning as expected, got another fired! It always seems to come full circle for those guys, doesn’t it?

And then, just in time, just when we all got a chance to start feeling good about this team again, the news dropped:

This can’t be real. This can’t be happening. Oh, but wait, here comes another:

Oh, wow. Oh, that’s just great. Forgive me for getting actually excited about Houston Football, I’ll climb back into my hole in the ground, now.

Both Will Fuller V and Bradley Roby were suspended six games for PED violations. Houston’s best skill position player on offense and best cornerback are now essentially done for the season. In other words, the world is ending, and the Houston Texans lose all momentum the second they scraped it up. It’s like they tattled on themselves to the football gods because they could not exist honestly as a competitive football team. We’re just not allowed to enjoy this season, honestly. Even victory has to be tinged with something else that spoils the glory.

But, anyways, now that we’ve been reminded again that the season is over, regardless of what Deshaun Watson has to say about it, maybe we’ll finally get to see some playing time for the younger players against Indianapolis on Sunday. Without Will Fuller, an injured Randall Cobb and recently released Kenny Stills, Brandin Cooks is the only starting wide receiver available. Keke Coutee is almost certain to see significantly more playing time, and we may be lucky enough to see meaningful snaps for 2020 fifth-round pick Isaiah Coulter for the first time this season. Without Roby at corner, Lonnie Johnson and John Reid are also likely to receive more playing time.

While our chances of victory against a cranky 7-4 Colts team would’ve been low regardless, losing two of our best players out of nowhere really hurts. But, because I am determined to enter this game with some optimism, Keke Coutee has had his best games against Indianapolis, and I’m determined to believe both John Reid and Isaiah Coulter are talented players that just need a chance to prove their worthiness to Crennel’s reluctant eminence. I believe their acceptance would be a brave move in his storied interim coaching career.

Yes, but where we were LAST year?

Beating the Colts in Houston! Duh! Just like we will again on Sunday!

Here’s what Dan Hanzus of NFL.com had to say about us this time last year:

9. Houston Texans (7-4)

Previous rank: No. 10

We know all about the brilliance of DeAndre Hopkins, who offered a reminder Thursday night with both Texans touchdowns in a 20-17 win over the Colts. But the secret ingredient to Houston’s attack is Will Fuller, whose big-play ability lifts the ceiling for Deshaun Watson and everyone around him. Fuller — who had been sidelined since Week 7 with a hamstring injury — had deep-ball snares of 44 and 51 yards, part of a seven-catch, 140-yard day. He ran a perfect route for his final reception of the day, a first-down pickup that allowed the Texans to run out the clock and take control of the AFC South. Fuller’s biggest issue has been staying healthy, but there’s no underplaying how important he is. According to Next Gen Stats, Watson throws deep more than twice as often when Fuller is on the field. Now the Texans just need to pray he’ll stay there.

So...yeah. Imagine that game, just without DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Carlos Hyde, D.J. Reader, Marlon Mack, Eric Ebron, love and happiness, etc. Guess what we got in return, though? PHILIP RIVERS, BABY! LET’S GOOO!!!

Here’s what everyone else is saying about the Texans this week:

ESPN:

25. Houston Texans (4-7)

Week 12 ranking: 27

Most important game remaining: Week 13 vs. Indianapolis

At 4-7, the Texans have to win their remaining games for a shot at the playoffs. That starts Sunday when they host the 7-4 Colts. Houston has three remaining AFC South games and is 2-1 in the division (both wins coming against the Jaguars). It is extremely unlikely the Texans will run the table, but with how well quarterback Deshaun Watson is playing, expect them to remain competitive in every game. — Sarah Barshop

PRO FOOTBALL TALK:

25. Texans (No. 25; 4-7): With Will Fuller suspended, that puts even more pressure on Deshaun Watson.

THE RINGER:

24. Houston Texans (4-7)

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED:

19. Houston Texans (4–7)

Last week: Win at Detroit 41–25

This week: vs. Indianapolis

The Texans are making their slow recovery after just a ridiculous schedule to open the season, and I am thankful for reminders of how incredible Deshaun Watson is. This is a point countless other people have made already, but it bears repeating: He’s the best selling point any team has in trying to hire the top coaching candidate this offseason.

BLEACHER REPORT:

19. Houston Texans (4-7)

High: 15

Low: 23

Last Week: 23

Week 12 Result: Won at Detroit 41-25

It took the Houston Texans nine weeks to win two games this season, and both of those wins came against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars.

But after beating the New England Patriots in Week 11 and the Lions in Detroit four days later, the Texans kept their slim hopes of making it back to the playoffs alive.

The Texans will likely need to win out to have a shot of earning a postseason berth. But there are now seven playoff spots in each conference, and an eighth could be added if the COVID-19 pandemic causes regular-season games to get canceled, per ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

In Week 12, the Texans looked like the team that won the AFC South a year ago. Deshaun Watson was outstanding, throwing four touchdown passes. Defensive end J.J. Watt scored on a pick-six.

It was a complete effort. And if the Texans can string a few more of those together, they can at least make things interesting down the stretch.

“It’s a shame they started as slowly as they did, because the Texans are a very tough out,” Gagnon said. “Watson is one of the top players in the league, and Houston’s only loss since Week 8 came in a weird, weather-impacted game in Cleveland. It’s probably too late for the 2020 Texans, but look for them to play spoiler down the stretch.”

However, the momentum the Texans have built of late took a hit this week when it was announced that No. 1 receiver Will Fuller V and cornerback Bradley Roby will be suspended for the remainder of the regular season for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy.

YAHOO! SPORTS:

25. Houston Texans (4-7, LW: 26)

Over Houston’s last six games, Deshaun Watson has 1,750 yards, 15 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 122.3 passer rating. That’s without one of the best receivers in the NFL, DeAndre Hopkins, who Houston traded to Arizona this past offseason. Now, Watson goes ahead without Will Fuller V, who was suspended six games. If you look at Houston’s losing record and think it reflects on Watson in the slightest, you’re doing the whole football analysis thing wrong.

Yeah, nobody knows where to put us, now. Combine one of the worst defenses in football with one of the best passing offenses, and spice in a few skilled players and close games, and you’ve got one of the hardest teams to evaluate projected against the rest of the league. What we fail to notice on the back of all of our Deshaun Watson jerseys, however, is the upside down text on the tag that reads: “As long as I’m playing, we can never truly suck!”

Here’s my power rankings to round out this week (note: these ratings are going up before the Ravens vs. Steelers game that has been repeatedly delayed because of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak the Ravens are suffering. Because of the Ravens being a worse team than the Steelers, the fact that the Steelers are playing in Pittsburgh, and the reality that the Ravens will be severely undermanned for that game because of the outbreak preventing many players from playing, I’m assuming the Ravens lose that game):

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

The Lions lose another game that was a must-win in order to make the playoffs, and that embarrassing loss to a team that already fired their head coach was finally enough for Detroit to say goodbye to Matt Patricia. The Raiders throw up a big-time stinker against Atlanta, which is completely unacceptable this late into the season for a team trying to secure a wild card spot. Both Washington and New York are in a fight for the NFC East crown (it’s probably one of those crappy Burger King paper crowns, ha! Get it? Cuz the NFC East is bad? Get it!?), with the Giants in front thanks to their divisional sweep of the Football Team.

The Patriots refuse to die, and I hate them. I hate them SO MUCH. Cam Newton completed 9 passes for 84 yards and 2 interceptions! In a victory! GET THEM AWAY FROM ME!

The Vikings pull a miraculous victory out of their purple hats against Carolina, but will still likely have to win out in order to make the postseason (which includes contests against Tampa Bay and New Orleans). The Texans would similarly have to win out to even have a chance at the playoffs, an impossibility even if Fuller and Roby weren’t suspended, since it includes two games against the Colts and a season finale where we host the Titans. Who knows, though? Both the Colts and Titans have proven they can suck any given week, the Bears are spiraling out of control, and the Bengals don’t have their quarterback. Everything would have to work out perfectly, but the Texans are certainly capable of competing with every team left on their schedule. Honestly, the fact that I’m even mentioning this as a legitimate possibility is an encouraging development. Either way, Deshaun Watson is my MVP pick for 2020.

Follow me on Twitter: @FizzyJoe