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2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week Nine

Where do the Texans land after their loss to the Rams?

Los Angeles Rams v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

As alluded to in last week’s power rankings, the Texans are now officially at rock bottom. There really isn’t much to say besides how the flash in the pan at the beginning of the season has now revealed itself to be just a flash, and that the pessimists were right. Having two Super Bowl contenders back to back is certainly a test for any football team, but the Texans decaying effort to put up any kind of fight was the nail in the coffin for the season.

And that’s okay! After last season’s collapse, we knew that the rebuild was likely. We knew this future was likely going to make its way downstream to our currently shuttered fandom. The Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars are here with us, and they’re having just as much trouble slogging through the sad mud that our favorite football teams have turned into. It’s not fun being a Texans fan right now, and that’s okay. We’re not the first NFL team to fall apart like this, and we won’t be the last. And, as much as we like to paint hellfire surrounding us, banishing us to a life of constant mediocrity because of “poor leadership,” it’s just as likely we draft a franchise quarterback with our first round selection and become a team with a lot to look forward to in the coming years.

At some point, the weekly roasting of the team, the coaches, the managers, and the owner becomes tiresome, and a form of apathy takes hold. A resignation to how things are currently and an acceptance of despair. You can see evidence of such emotions in most Texans-related articles, blog posts, tweets, and other virtual locations to find talking heads screaming about how the sky is always falling. The darkness some franchises are finding themselves in will convince many that this will never end, that this is the new normal, and the sun will never rise again.

But we all know better. We see the same awesome collapse of a franchise over and over again every season. The awful start to the season, the coach getting fired, locker room drama, injuries, a discussion among fans if tanking is now the best route to future success, and an owner/manager giving an impassioned speech about “cleaning house” and “demanding a better culture.” They rarely ever stay bad. These awful, embarrassing franchises often find themselves (either accidentally or otherwise) to winning seasons fairly soon after hitting the floor. Even the Cleveland Browns have found their way to becoming a genuinely good NFL team, and, to be honest, the Texans have nothing on the suffering of the Browns. Houston has had a pretty even split of good and bad seasons, and it will be difficult for a talented, seasoned manager like Nick Caserio not to tangibly improve this team this coming offseason. Money, draft stock, and job security are currently on his side. This isn’t an attempt to convince you this organization is trustworthy and undeserving of criticism, but at some point the horse has been beaten to death.

Yeah, but where were we last year?

1-6 and in our bye week. The 2020 Texans had already fired Bill O’Brien, completely resigned to saving the season, and the reality that a hefty rebuild was underway was starting to settle in to the fans. In a way, there was a bit of excitement about dumping O’Brien and having the possibility of hiring a hot new coach and general manager to usher us into a beautiful new world of offensive potency and managing prowess. We didn’t get the Robert Saleh/Eric Bienemy new hotness, but we did get Davis Mills and David Culley…yeah this sucks. But, at this point, it’d be hard to argue we’d be any better if we hired Saleh.

Here’s where everyone is ranking the Texans entering Week Nine:

ESPN:

31. Houston Texans (1-7)

Previous ranking: 31

Biggest Achilles’ heel: Running game

It’s hard to pick just one category for a 1-7 team, but one area the Texans have struggled in all season — and not because of injury — is running the ball. Houston ranks dead last in Football Outsider’s rush DVOA and is averaging 76.1 rushing yards per game. Now that Houston has traded lead back Mark Ingram II, it has four running backs: veterans David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay and Rex Burkhead and second-year pro Scottie Phillips. After Ingram was traded, it was Burkhead who led the way in Sunday’s loss to the Rams — but the group was still held to 44 yards on 14 carries. — Sarah Barshop

NFL.COM:

32. Houston Texans (1-7)

Previous rank: No. 32

Another week, another punishing loss for the worst team in football. The biggest story around the Texans remains Deshaun Watson, who, if recent reports are correct, will not be moved ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline. Being rid of Watson and all that comes with him would have been a positive development for the Texans, but there will be more time to address the situation again in the months ahead. As for the actual on-field product, Houston is talent poor and outclassed every time it steps on the field. Years of poor draft-capital management and questionable roster moves have left the franchise barren. The upcoming offseason will be the most critical in the organization’s history.

PRO FOOTBALL TALK:

31. Texans (1-7, No. 31): The strategy in every survivor pool is simple — take whoever is playing the Texans.

USA TODAY:

31. Texans (32): There might finally be blessed clarity on Houston’s quarterback conundrum this week ... meaning the potential return of Tyrod Taylor, of course.

THE RINGER:

30. Houston Texans (1-7)

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED:

32. Houston Texans (1–7)

Last week: Loss vs. Los Angeles Rams, 38–22

Next week: at Miami

The Texans are the worst team in football, and they deserve this ranking after a three-week span that saw them lose 31–3 and 31–5, and then fall behind 38–0 before garbage time. I can’t rank them above the Lions just because they had the fortune of playing the Jags seven weeks ago.

CBS SPORTS:

31. Houston Texans (1-7)

When do they put Tyrod Taylor back in the lineup? It probably doesn’t matter who plays quarterback, but they have a winnable game against the Dolphins this week.

BLEACHER REPORT:

30. Houston Texans (1-7)

Last Week: 32

Week 8 Result: Lost vs. Los Angeles Rams 38-22

Depending on how you look at it, there were some positives for the Houston Texans in Week 8. The team peeled off 22 unanswered points against one of the best teams in the NFL. Rookie quarterback Davis Mills threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 106.3.

But there’s just one small problem. That all happened after the Texans spotted the Rams 38 points in Houston’s seventh straight defeat.

Texans head coach David Culley tried to put a positive spin on the fight his team showed at the end while speaking to reporters after the game.

“I’m disappointed and frustrated, but I’m not discouraged with this football team simply because of what I saw at the end there ... they’re not going to quit,” Culley said.

Now the Texans have a decision to make. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who led the team to a win in Week 1, practiced last week and could be ready to return to action in Week 9. Culley needs to decide whether the veteran stopgap should go back into the lineup, or if Mills has shown enough to get the rest of the season to prove he should be considered a potential long-term option under center.

YAHOO! SPORTS:

32. Houston Texans (1-7, Last Week: 32)

A report from NFL.com said receiver Brandin Cooks is unlikely to be traded. Cooks does have another year left on his deal and he’s probably one of the Texans’ best players so it makes a little sense to keep him. On the other hand, is Cooks going to resign and still be a top receiver in 2023?

Yep, we’re bad! Some are still not sinking us below the Lions or the Jaguars, but we’re certainly not much better.

Here our my personal power rankings entering Week Nine:

  1. Green Bay Packers (7-1) (Last Week: 5)
  2. Arizona Cardinals (7-1) (Last Week: 1)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (7-1) (Last Week: 4)
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) (Last Week: 2)
  5. Dallas Cowboys (6-1) (Last Week: 11)
  6. Buffalo Bills (6-2) (Last Week; 6)
  7. Tennessee Titans (6-2) (Last Week: 9)
  8. Baltimore Ravens (5-2) (Last Week: 7)
  9. Cincinnati Bengals (5-3) (Last Week: 3)
  10. Las Vegas Raiders (5-2) (Last Week: 10)
  11. New Orleans Saints (5-2) (Last Week: 13)
  12. Los Angeles Chargers (5-3) (Last Week: 8)
  13. New England Patriots (4-4) (Last Week: 17)
  14. Kansas City Chiefs (4-4) (Last Week: 15)
  15. Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) (Last Week: 19)
  16. Cleveland Browns (4-4) (Last Week: 12)
  17. Minnesota Vikings (3-4) (Last Week: 14)
  18. Denver Broncos (4-4) (Last Week: 18)
  19. Indianapolis Colts (3-5) (Last Week: 16)
  20. Carolina Panthers (4-4) (Last Week: 21)
  21. San Francisco 49ers (3-4) (Last Week: 22)
  22. Atlanta Falcons (3-4) (Last Week: 20)
  23. Seattle Seahawks (3-5) (Last Week: 23)
  24. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) (Last Week: 24)
  25. Chicago Bears (3-5) (Last Week: 25)
  26. New York Jets (2-6) (Last Week: 31)
  27. New York Giants (2-6) (Last Week: 26)
  28. Washington Football Team (2-6) (Last Week: 27)
  29. Miami Dolphins (1-7) (Last Week: 29)
  30. Houston Texans (1-7) (Last Week: 30)
  31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) (Last Week: 28)
  32. Detroit Lions (0-8) (Last Week: 32)

I refuse to completely sink my beloved Texans! They are still sometimes okay! Besides that, this past weekend was wild for the rankings. The muddled middle got significantly more muddled as several bad or reeling teams beat playoff contenders, as if by some divine ordinance to ensure a balanced league. The Green Bay Packers got lucky, as they always do, and find themselves on top of the league again. Justin Fields finally put together a legitimately impressive performance that ultimately yielded another loss. The New Orleans Saints get a big win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but at the cost of Jameis Winston. Without him, they will relying heavily on Taysom Hill to keep their offense chugging along. I expect him to, but things seem to always get more interesting in the NFC South as the season rolls along, The Panthers are hanging in there, and the Falcons aren’t nearly as bad as we touted them to be at the beginning of the season.

Similar to the Saints, the Tennessee Titans got a massive divisional win against the Indianapolis Colts, but at the cost of their most important offensive weapon: Derrick Henry. Henry, unlike Winston, is expected to return to the field sometime this season, but the Titans will have to keep their hot streak alive the next several weeks without him.

Next up for the Houston Texans is the spiraling Miami Dolphins in the Stink Bowl. Two of the worst teams in the league will throw everything at each other at Hard Rock Stadium in order to keep their minuscule playoff hopes alive, while all the drama of Deshaun Watson and the trade deadline will hover over everything like a dense Florida fog. Or is it smoke? Maybe we will all find out soon…