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2021 NFL Power Rankings - Week Twelve

Where do the Texans land after their statement win against the Titans?

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Welcome back to the winner’s circle! Somehow, someway, by some otherworldly force, the lowly Texans created five turnovers against a Titans squad deep in the dredges of an injury plagued season. Finally, after one of the most impressive winning streaks in recent NFL history, the Titans finally felt the sting of attrition against their rival Texans, who were more than prepared to make them pay for their mistakes.

In last week’s power rankings, I talked about the character of the Houston Texans. As hapless as they are, the Texans are still an essential performer in this year’s season of the NFL. This week, they proved as much by creating one of the most surprising twists of the year and defeating the unconquerable Titans. A Titans roster that had defeated five playoff teams in consecutive weeks despite all their injuries just couldn’t get past the worst team in football.

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images

Of course, peeling under the wild sheen of this game yields what many would consider a rational explanation for such a ridiculous result. The Texans had plenty of luck on their side, unlike the entire season up to this point. Incoming rain prevented the Titans from recovering from their sloppy start, and by the time it stopped, the game was practically over. In many ways, everything that could have gone right for the Texans did, ensuring that the trap game we had been yearning for would become reality.

But this still isn’t a rational result, this game still should not have happened. The Titans had more passing yards, rushing yards, more yards per play, less penalties, ran more plays, and had possession of the ball longer than the Texans. Houston’s offensive line was (by some miracle) consistent and reliable against an opponent that has absolutely ruined teams with their defensive front. There was no reason to believe entering this game that Houston would even compete up front, especially after the pitiful showing against the Texans. Yet, they performed well enough that Tim Kelly and Tyrod Taylor were able to take advantage of the turnovers and score just enough to complete this trap game ritual the football gods had ordained to us.

Why? Why would so many little things work out for the Texans to secure victory? How could something so perfectly nonsensical happen? At some point, the rational explanations do not satisfy our confusion about this result. This game and this result is, to the dismay of all those steady minds grounded in reality, nothing but spectacular. Nonsensical, stupid, obnoxious, and spectacular. And maybe, in some birds-eye perspective within the enclaves of our conscious, we can describe the Texans as such. Masters of their craft, they had fooled the entire country into thinking there was absolutely no way they could win this game. And yet, even after a statistical performance on offense that matches the ineptitude we have come to expect, they still somehow won.

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

What’s even wilder is that this is the same unbeatable Titans team that was busy losing to the Jets before their win streak. This is in the character of the Titans this year, and yet, we were still surprised. This wildcard style is in the character of the Texans are this year, and yet, we were still surprised.

Here’s where everyone is rankings the Texans after their upset against the Titans:


29. Houston Texans (2-8)

Previous ranking: 31

Most memorable Thanksgiving game: Texans whip Lions 41-25 on Nov. 26, 2020

The Texans were 4-12 last season, but one of the team’s highlights came on Thanksgiving Day. In a 41-25 victory over the Detroit Lions, Deshaun Watson played his best game of the year, throwing for 318 yards and four touchdowns in front of a national audience. The Texans’ other touchdown in the game came on a pick-six by J.J. Watt. Houston has played in only two games on Thanksgiving — both against the Lions — and is 2-0. — Sarah Barshop


29. Houston Texans (2-8)

Previous rank: No. 32

The Texans are so much more watchable when Tyrod Taylor is on the field. The veteran quarterback piloted the Houston offense with some level of efficiency and scored twice on the ground in a 22-13 win over the Titans that counts as one of the biggest upsets of the year. The Texans intercepted four Ryan Tannehill passes and made big plays at several crucial junctures despite being out-gained 420-190 in total yards. Now, the bad news: The win, combined with another Lions loss, puts Houston 1.5 games behind Detroit in the “race” for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Sometimes you win and still lose.


29. Texans (2-8, No. 32): Yep, they’ll win just enough games to blow the top pick.


31. Texans (32): When you’re paying your only superstar to not play while constantly churning the roster, no wonder David Culley can’t afford to issue any game balls. Nice win, though, Coach.


29. Houston Texans (2-8)


(tie)30. Houston Texans (2—8)

Last week: Win at Tennessee, 22–13

Next week: vs. N.Y. Jets

0–17 was a realistic possibility with this roster. Give David Culley, Tim Kelly, Lovie Smith and Co. a thumbs-up for winning two games already, with a chance to win a third this weekend.


29. Houston Texans (2-8): They showed some good things in beating the Titans on the road. That means they haven’t quit, which is a good thing for coach David Culley.


30. Houston Texans (2-8)

Last Week: 32

Week 11 Result: Won at Tennessee 22-13

Yes, you read that right. A Houston Texans team that entered Week 11 with all of one win knocked off the AFC’s No. 1 seed heading into the week—and in their house, no less.

An argument can be made that the Texans didn’t win this game as much as the Titans lost it. Houston had just 190 yards of offense compared to Tennessee’s 420. But when a team has five turnovers and its opponent has zero, the opponent usually wins.

Regardless of how it happened, Houston linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill told reporters this was a huge win for the franchise.

“It’s just huge to get this thing rolling,” Grugier-Hill said. “It’s been tough. It’s been super tough. To come out here and get a big win on the road against probably one of the best teams in the AFC, that’s huge. So, we’re excited.”

This win isn’t going to save Houston’s season. It also doesn’t make the Texans a good football team.

But it’s enough to get the team out of the basement of these power rankings.

And by golly, that matters.


29. Houston Texans (2-8, defeated Tennessee Titans)

Blame it on the weather. Or Tyrod Taylor proving he is more than a journeyman. This was about as unlikely a win as the Jets beating the Titans. Next: vs. New York Jets

Up out of the deepest of trenches, its encouraging to see national media recognizing the beautifully weird persona of the Texans. Number twenty nine in our minds, number one in our hearts.

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images

Here are my personal power rankings entering Week Twelve:

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

This has been one of the most entertaining stretches of an NFL season I’ve ever experienced. Every week, more and more teams insert themselves into the playoff hunt and the “real Super Bowl contenders” look increasingly vulnerable. There’s literally a one-game difference between my #9 ranked team and my #23 ranked team. In two or three weeks, these teams can end up literally swapping positions and it wouldn’t be that surprising!

Speaking of the AFC West, it appears that the race for the crown is likely to come down to the Chargers and the Chiefs. Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes are playing their best football, and it looks like the playoff push for both teams is in full swing.

The NFC East is now, surprisingly, getting complicated. After that massive lead Dallas built over the first half of the season, a couple losses in November has given both Philadelphia and Washington a glimmer of hope to vault themselves into the NFL Playoffs. The Eagles seem to get better week after week and could become a juggernaut by January.

However, all the eyes of the adoring football world have been glued to the Colts, the Vikings, and especially the Patriots during November. These three teams had dramatically sloppy openings to the season that provided plenty of fodder for critics of their quarterbacks. Mac Jones was suffering just as much as every other rookie quarterback, some were calling for a rookie quarterback to replace Kirk Cousins, and Carson Wentz continued to play like Carson Wentz. However, since Halloween, all three squads have pulled themselves out of the cellar thanks to stabilizing play from the passers and fantastic efforts from their running backs and offensive lines. These teams are trying to prove to the NFL that you can turn the clock back to the 90s and become dominant primarily through running the football and defense. So far, it’s working. Let’s see if they can keep it going as we approach the new year.

Follow me on Twitter: @FizzyJoe

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images