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2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week Sixteen

Where do we land after the ashes have fallen?

NFL: Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Hahaaaaa, they did it again! Oh boy did they do it! Just when you thought they were done doing it, they went and did it again!

The Texans are the funniest team in football. I wake up as a Houston Texans fan, and I start laughing, because if Albert Camus taught me anything, everything is nonsensical and hilarious. I climb out of my bed engulfed in a thin sheet of Cheeto shavings, shift my way into the bathroom, look into the mirror...

...I stare into the eyes that have seen one-thousand fumbles. Like flashbacks replaying in the reflection, these moments of pain have assembled together to form an incarnation of one of the most distraught football fans in the country. The Texans have had one of the most brutal seasons in recent memory, kicking off with one of the worst four game stretches in franchise history, firing the coach, building some momentum in the middle of it all, and then seeing all hopes dashed away in literally the most dramatic way possible.

But, it’s the holidays, and it’s not time to be negative. The Texans’ season has been an explosion of impressive proportions which should be acknowledged, but now is not the time to dwell on what could have been. This team has shown an incredible ability to fight through injuries and suspensions, revealing depth on offense few gave credit for, and hang around in nearly every game. The defense has the most question marks and will require some serious retooling for next season, but one side of the ball is, for the most part, more than capable of winning games.

As the winds get colder, jackets get thicker, and the ground grows whiter, the NFL playoff picture begins to mold into shape. Unfortunately, the Texans will not be part of the winter bash, but that shouldn’t dull out our excitement too much. Here’s what Dan Hanzus had to say about us last year, when we were in the thick of it:

8. Houston Texans (10-5)

Previous rank: No. 10

A reminder never to count out or dismiss the Texans. Houston went into Nashville and showed no fear against a surging Titans team, scoring the game’s first two touchdowns and holding on for a 24-21 win. It’s a massive victory that puts the Texans in the driver’s seat to claim their second consecutive AFC South title. This was a big game for the defense. The unit held the Titans scoreless in the first half and got a game-changing play — Whitney Mercilus’ goal-line interception and 86-yard return — that altered the course of the afternoon. On offense, Deshaun Watsonfound Kenny Stills for two touchdowns, while Carlos Hyde rushed for 100 yards and a score, going over 1,000 yards for the season. Here’s your reminder that Bill O’Brien landed both those players (plus star left tackle Laremy Tunsil) on the last day of August. Not bad work by the de facto GM.

“Not bad work by the de facto GM.” Even though it’s as hilarious as being a Texans fan to look back on that quote, many fans agreed with the sentiment, including me. Houston was clearly in position for a Super Bowl run with a franchise quarterback on a rookie contract. Most would believe any moves that make the team immediately better were justified. I was fairly positive on the move, thinking the addition of Tunsil and Stills would lift the offense to new heights, which they more or less did. The price of two first and second round picks, however, was a terrifying amount of treasures thrown away in the race to the Lombardi trophy. Now that that gamble has fallen apart, a reset is much easier said than done. Hindsight is always 20/20, and, despite the difficulties ahead, a new head coach, GM, and just a few impact players on defense can bring us back to that peak. Here’s where the Texans stand in the rankings, today:


30. Houston Texans (4-10)

Week 15 ranking: 29

Most underrated star: ILB Zach Cunningham

There isn’t a long list to pick from because most of the success the Texans have had is due to how QB Deshaun Watson has played. But one player who has shown up on the stat sheet regardless of how poorly the defense is playing is Cunningham. The Texans’ 2017 second-round pick, who signed a contract extension before the season, leads the NFL in tackles. “Zach has had a good season,” interim head coach Romeo Crennel said Monday. “He is a very active defensive player for us. He runs and hits. He fills gaps, and he is productive from that aspect.” — Sarah Barshop


28. Houston Texans (4-10)

Previous rank: No. 29

Two weeks ago, after a low snap fired at his shins led to the crushing turnover in a last-minute loss to the Colts, Deshaun Watson spent the next several minutes alone on the Texans bench with a towel draped over his head — total dejection for one of the game’s great competitors. On Sunday, after another crushing goal-line turnover buried the Texans once more against the Colts, Watson walked off the field with an almost bemused look on his face. You could picture what the Pro Bowl quarterback was thinking in that moment: This year has been profoundly, irrevocably, undeniably f-----. To hell with 2020. Amen, brother.


21. Texans

The defense gets worse by the week. They can’t stop anybody. Deshaun Watson can’t do it by himself.


27. Texans (No. 28; 4-10): The most important month in franchise history starts the Monday after Week 17.


26. Houston Texans (4-10)


28. Houston Texans (4–10)

Last week: Loss at Indianapolis 27–20

Next week: vs. Cincinnati

The Texans have kept playing hard through everything, and that Packer game should be a nice test for where the players are.


28. Houston Texans (4-10)

High: 26

Low: 29

Last Week: 28

Week 15 Result: Lost at Indianapolis 27-20

The waning moments of the Houston Texans’ Week 15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts sums up the disaster that is their 2020 season.

After a back-and-forth affair with their AFC South rivals, the Texans were on the cusp of tying the game with less than a minute left. But wide receiver Keke Coutee coughed up the ball near the goal line, costing the Texans the game and wasting a 373-yard passing effort from Deshaun Watson.

The real kick in the junk for the Texans won’t come until after the season ends.

The sole bright spot to a season that started with playoff aspirations but will end with double-digit losses would have been the high draft pick they could have used for their rebuild. But thanks to Bill O’Brien’s machinations as general manager, their first-round pick in 2021 belongs to the Miami Dolphins.

The Texans have little cap space, even less draft capital, and a long-term outlook that isn’t especially good.


25. Houston Texans (4-10, LW: 27)

Deshaun Watson trails only Patrick Mahomes in yards and Aaron Rodgers in passer rating. You’ll hear people argue that Player A should get MVP votes because his supporting cast isn’t as good as Player B. Given that, Watson should get MVP consideration because he has the worst supporting cast of all. He won’t, but he is having that type of individual season.

The Texans couldn’t escape the disgusting maw of 2020, but that’s not unexpected. Even with a genuinely uncertain future, I have confidence we will return to competence (and possibly even the playoffs) next year. I’m not getting my hopes up since this team will be trimmed of its parts next year and will still require several pieces to make the defense acceptable, but Deshaun Watson has made it clear this year that he can beat any team regardless of what’s around him. While this is not the nicest present under the Christmas tree (and certainly not the one we were hoping for back in August), it’s certainly not enough to ruin holiday football nor dispel my confidence in the future. After all, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Here’s my power rankings for week sixteen:

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

The Texans go up a rank this time around since they played another very close game against stiff competition. Keke Coutee, Chad Hansen, and now Kahale Warring are proving to be reliable pieces on the offense and could see more playing time next year. Each passing week I feel more confident in our backups, but Coutee needs to figure out how not to fumble at some point or another.

The Raiders are now almost certainly out of the playoffs with their loss to the Chargers, but still have a pivotal matchup against Miami coming next week. Cincinnati scores a big upset against Pittsburgh, who’s offense is reeling and looking less like a powerhouse by the day. If they want to win any playoff games, Ben and the o-line need to improve their play significantly and get back to where they were in September. The Browns, Bills, and Packers score wins that further solidify their strengths on both sides of the ball, with the Bills still in contention for the #1 seed and the Browns looking at the possibility of stealing the AFC North crown from Pittsburgh in Week seventeen. But first, Cleveland has to beat the New York Jets, who scored their first win of the season against the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams’ shot at the #1 seed are now gone, and the Jets are now apparently not so much of an easy outing.

New England finally (FINALLY) gets eliminated from playoff contention after getting pushed around by Miami, who is still in a dogfight for the #7 seed against Baltimore. Baltimore has an extremely easy schedule left, so Miami must win out in order to make it to the dance with their rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who might end up being the worst highly-drafted quarterback of his class. Justin Herbert has certainly looked better than Tua, Burrow did before his injury, and 2nd round pick Jalen Hurts has been thrown into the fire and lit up the competition in his first two starts. Philly now enters a genuine quarterback dilemma with the most expensive backup in the league and a rookie who may just take them to the playoffs if he can win out and get some help along the way.

The most surprising game for me personally was the Vikings loss to Chicago. The Bears looked cooked halfway through the season in the middle of their losing streak, but have since rebounded in a big way since Trubisky has assumed the starting job again. Chicago now has an outside shot at making the playoffs, but they need Arizona to drop a game before they can sneak in. I always thought Trubisky was a significantly better quarterback than Nick Foles: where Foles is terrible at everything, Trubisky is at least effective in play-action and at short range, along with possessing a decent amount of athleticism that Foles could never dream of. I still wonder if Trubisky could be a better quarterback if he had a better o-line and rushing attack, so I hope he gets a shot with another team that has both and see if he can revive his career like Ryan Tannehill did with Tennessee. The Vikings, on the other hand, fought all the way back to .500 just to fall apart again in December, another disappointing season for fans who’d hoped they were entering a Super Bowl window after signing Kirk Cousins. Next year, however, with a healthy and more experienced defense to pair with an already powerful offense, the Vikings might be the class of the NFC North.

What do you think of the Texans? What are your rankings going into the final stretch of the regular season? Who’s gonna squeeze into the playoffs in these final two weeks? Let us know in the comments!

Follow me on Twitter: @FizzyJoe