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2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week Four

Here’s where our most recent iteration of a 0-3 team is ranked.

NFL: Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in three years, the Texans are 0-3. I still remember reading takes on the Texans the week following their loss to the Giants back in 2018, repeatedly hearing stuff like, “There’s nothing good about this team right now” and “J.J. Watt is literally the only bright spot.” Man, did we end up proving them wrong by season’s end. Hopelessly optimistic, I yearn to feel that sense of schadenfreude once again this season, although things looks exceptionally bleak after the collapse at Heinz Field. To take you back to those similarly dire straits, here’s the NFL’s Week 4 power ranking countdown for 2018:

...and an excerpt from ESPN’s Week Four power rankings in 2018:

29. Houston Texans:

Record: 0-3

Week 3 Ranking: 22

Deshaun Watson has been pressured on 44 percent of his dropbacks this season, the highest rate in the league. That is because the Texans’ offensive line has controlled the line of scrimmage on 43 percent of dropbacks, the lowest rate in the NFL. — Koontz

Sounds a bit familiar, huh?

Where were you in September 2018? I was starting my senior year at Penn State, overencumbered by history books and a Monday slate of three classes back-to-back from 7:50 to 12:15. There was this café right across the sidewalk from my last class, Au Bon Pain. The amount of times I stumbled out of finance class, sulked my way to that cafe to get a muffin, and zonked out at in empty booth is embarrassing.

Usually spending most Sunday nights and early Monday mornings doing...college things...I was often completely unprepared for a four-hour marathon of classes. My exhausted mind frequently dreamed of inventory expenses and cash flow equations, presumably out of subconscious guilt for struggling to keep my eyes open during finance. A long class, especially running on three hours of sleep. But the rays of sunshine showering through the soft brown leaves and the smell of autumn brushing against my face as I exited towards my French sleep and sanctuary always made up for it.

The few times I was not eating muffins and dozing off, I’d be watching NFL highlights on my phone and reading through power rankings. Like a kid frantically skimming a magazine in the drug store, I blasted through each of the power rankings posted by sports media juggernauts to find where all the analysts had the Texans. Week by week, the Texans made those reads less of a slog and more of joy, each trip to Au Bon Pain every Monday a little bit sweeter.

Anyways, I should be getting on with it, shouldn’t I?

Well, you asked for it: Here is where the lovely Houston Texans rank amongst the league:

ESPN:

20.) Houston Texans (0-3)

Week 3 ranking: 20

What we got wrong: Deshaun Watson would be sacked the fewest amount of times of his career

For the first time under head coach Bill O’Brien, the Texans brought all five starting offensive linemen back. Between that consistency and left tackle Laremy Tunsil having a full season in Houston under his belt, the Texans anticipated they would finally be able to protect their franchise quarterback. That has not been the case through three games. Watson has been sacked 13 times, the second-most in the NFL. — Sarah Barshop

NFL.COM:

Previous rank: No. 21

Another dispiriting setback for Houston, which sits at 0-3 after a 28-21 loss to the Steelers. The same issues continue to haunt Bill O’Brien’s Texans: They can’t protect the quarterback, they struggle to run the football, they can’t stop the run and they don’t force turnovers (zero through three games). Yes, their losses have come to the Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers (Nos. 1, 3 and 4 in these rankings), but this early litmus test tells us how far Houston is from legitimate contender status. Deshaun Watson finished the first half 14 of 18 for 202 yards and two TDs, but the offense was held to just 51 yards and two first downs over in the final two quarters.

THE RINGER:

21. Houston Texans (0-3)

CBS SPORTS:

21. Houston Texans: They’ve faced a brutal schedule to open the season. At 0-3, they are in a big hole and the defense isn’t very good. Can they rebound?

BLEACHER REPORT:

25. Houston Texans (0-3)

High: 24

Low: 26

Last Week: 23

Week 3 Result: Lost at Pittsburgh 28-21

It’s difficult to make the playoffs after an 0-2 start, but not impossible—the Houston Texans have accomplished the feat twice in recent years, including as recently as 2018.

However, making the postseason after an 0-3 start is nearly impossible. Since 1980, only six teams have started a campaign with three straight losses and gone on to make the playoffs.

Again, Houston was one of those teams. But that’s the hole the Houston Texans find themselves in again after losing at Pittsburgh in Week 3.

The schedule-makers gave Houston a brutal start. The Texans opened at Kansas City and then hosted Baltimore before heading to Pittsburgh.

But the Texans didn’t do themselves any favors Sunday. After racing out to a 14-3 lead, Houston was unable to do much offensively the rest of the way. For the game, the Texans had just 260 yards of total offense and allowed five more sacks of Deshaun Watson.

The schedule lightens up now—next week the Texans face the winless Vikings.

But at this point, it’s going to be very difficult for Houston to play into January, even with a seventh playoff spot up for grabs in the AFC. At least one analyst believes that ship has already sailed.

“Stick a fork in the Texans,” Sobleski said, “because their season is basically done. Teams that started 0-3 in the modern era have less than a 3 percent chance of making the postseason, per NBC Sports Philly’s Dave Zangaro. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts are a combined 5-1 in the AFC South. A disappointing season in Houston will surely expand Bill O’Brien’s power base if recent history is any indication.”

Oh, and since power rankings are so fun and I can’t help myself, here’s my personal Week Four power rankings:

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

I personally rank the Texans at 19, pretty much the same as everyone above and for the same reasons. I think the Texans are the best winless team, and I think they’re probably better than the Panthers, but they currently have no reason to be ranked above the Browns, Chargers, or Colts. There are fewer bright spots and dirtier blemishes (many of which are coaching related) on the Texans’ crest than any of those teams, even if I believe the Texans to be much more capable. It’s a nice way of saying they’ve been very disappointing thus far.

What do you think? Are the Texans really this bad, or do you think we’re in store for another 2018-like finish? Let us know in the comments!

Follow me on Twitter: @FizzyJoe