This game made it official: We are now at least the third worst team in football. Detroit is obviously the absolute worst team, Jacksonville is behind them (albeit with a few nice wins to convince the fans there’s something of value beneath Urban’s mire). Now, with a nice, clean loss to the Jets to conjoin with the week one victory over the Jaguars and an excellent trap game performance against the Titans, the Texans have planted their flag firmly in the third spot in next year’s NFL Draft. The Jets, with this win likely bumping them back to at least fourth place, will find solace in evidence of a young coaching staff and team showing gradual improvement since their disastrous opening act.
It would be satisfying to declare now the incompetence of the Texans after losing to another classic terrible Jets team. It would be satisfying to say that the Texans investment in veterans to aid the team through a transitional season was a hilarious failure, crystallized by a loss to a team younger and arguably more disorganized on the field than we are. But, that would not be telling the whole story.
This tells a better story:
Both very underwhelming stats, aren’t they?
Yes, Zach Wilson is a rookie on a young team with a first year coaching staff that’s still rebuilding. Yes, Tyrod Taylor has no rushing attack and his offensive line is terrible. But, we both aren’t wrong for expecting more from these players, are we? I know both are much better than how they performed on Sunday, or at least I would like to think so. I can’t imagine either team is very ecstatic about their performance through the air, and both have seen their seasons turn to mush because of that lack of passing efficiency.
The Jets were not seen as a team this bad in the preseason. Even with all their youth, hype surrounded Wilson’s playmaking ability, the refreshed receiving corps ready to take off under the rising winds of Mike LaFleur’s offense, and a defense with some key free agent additions to complement Robert Saleh’s coordinating genius. There were expectations for this Jets team, belief that they had a real shot to hit the ground running in their first year together. To say that this season has been a massive, shocking disappointment to most Jets fans is an understatement. An understatement because such a criticism does not etch at the core of what this kind of disappointment means to a Jets fan: a fan that has had very little to say positively about their team in a decade, a fan that has had very little hope for the future until this very year. Joe Douglas, Robert Saleh, Mike LaFleur, and Zach Wilson embodied the hope for the next generation of the Jets. This floundering, embarrassing half of a season was a blindsiding reminder to Jets fans what they have been for so long, its abrupt return making the sting of reality as sharp as it had once been years ago.
Since then, Saleh and the Jets have been trying to pick up the pieces and show the league that there’s still plenty of fight in a young Jets squad loaded with talented players and primed to get more. This win against Houston, while ugly from beginning to end, was a glimmer of what was expected out of this Jets team, and what could be in the future. Their season has completely derailed, but each week they look more and more the team Jets fans were hoping to see in September.
The Texans tackled their offseason with much less cohesion and aplomb than the Jets, opting for a more anticlimactic and muddling approach. Scrapping together a young and talented foundation was not feasible, so the approach became absorbing the cannon fodder of other teams and hoping that that’s enough to keep the ship from sinking too early (or a shallow attempt at trying to convince fans that you are, in fact, not tanking). Regardless, this was as much as an attempt to put together a winning team as the Jets, and it too fell apart spectacularly in the first half of the season.
Neither of these teams planned for this. Neither wanted this to happen or expected this to happen, but here they are. Both more than prepared to move on from the past and start winning, this was a moment to see which managing approach could come out on top.
The Jets’ victory against the Texans signals more steady improvement and more hope for the future, while the Texans’ loss further buries the managing decisions made in the offseason in order to stay competitive in the short-term. The most sobering of all stats, the stat that could be held up as evidence of the success of one manager over the failure of another, is the rushing yards. The Texans had 24 rushing attempts for 96 yards, averaging 4.0 yards per carry, while the Jets had 34 rushing attempts for 157 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Here, in the trenches, both Nick Caserio and Joe Douglas invested significant resources to shore up a rushing attack. Caserio opted to bring in veteran playmakers for the new makeshift offensive line while Douglas continued to try and build from the later-round draft picks. If giving up on the plan before the end of the season by trading Mark Ingram and releasing Philip Lindsay wasn’t enough, a loss to the Jets that can be pinned on a worse performance on the ground should be enough to award Douglas with the managerial award.
Likewise, the defense on both teams was expected to be leagues above the dredges that they called home last year. Both have been similarly as bad this year, but only one can say it rallied at halftime to smother their opponent and create the opportunity for victory on Sunday. Another chip to Douglas.
Both the Texans and the Jets tackled the offseason with the goal of resetting after last season’s collapse, each with a different philosophy on how that would be realized. Both made a myriad of moves either in the draft and/or in free agency in order to wash away the stink from 2020 and get back to winning football, and both thus far have had abysmal seasons, annihilating any expectations from either fan base of something genuinely exciting to wish upon. Both the Texans and the Jets have had terrible seasons, but, on Sunday, one felt the rich feeling of growth and success in victory, and the other felt the pain and regret in loss.
Here is where everyone is ranking the Texans after their loss to the Jets:
31. Houston Texans (2-9)
Previous ranking: 29
Week 6 confidence rating: 1.0
How it’s going now: 0.8
Not much has changed for a Texans team that has only won one game since Week 6 and that already had a low confidence rating. Houston got a surprise win in Nashville in Week 11 but couldn’t build on it Sunday, losing by a touchdown to the Jets. Now, the biggest question remaining for the Texans is where they pick in the draft, after having just one first-round pick since 2018. Houston is currently projected by ESPN’s FPI to have an average draft position of 2.6 and has a 97.3% chance of having a top-5 pick. — Sarah Barshop
30. Houston Texans (2-9)
Previous rank: No. 29
There’s no question Tyrod Taylor makes the Texans more competitive on offense, but let’s not mistake basic competence with actual quality. Taylor threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter as Houston took an early 11-point lead on the visiting Jets, but the Texans’ attack went to sleep after that in an eventual 21-14 loss. How bad was the offense after its quick start? The Texans managed just 45 yards in the second half and were unable to score a point in their final seven drives against the league’s No. 32-ranked defense. Meanwhile, Justin Reid is still trying to figure out why he didn’t play. January 10th can’t get here fast enough.
PRO FOOTBALL TALK:
30. Texans (2-9, No. 29): Will David Culley be one and done?
30. Texans (31): Valuable loss to Jets on Sunday helps them settle in to No. 2 slot in the 2022 draft order ... though Week 15 date at Jacksonville looms as potential pothole.
31. Houston Texans (2-9)
30. Houston Texans (2–9)
Last week: Loss vs. New York Jets, 21–14
Next week: vs. Indianapolis
David Culley’s kept the team competing and working. But the game against the Jets showed, again, that the Texans have a lot of building to do.
30. Houston Texans (2-9)
So much for the idea that they could string together a few victories. The offense just isn’t that good.
31. Houston Texans (2-9)
Last Week: 30
Week 12 Result: Lost vs. New York Jets 21-14
Last week, the Houston Texans logged one of the biggest upsets of the 2021 season in taking down the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans.
In Week 12, they came crashing back to earth.
The Texans pulled off that upset of the Titans despite managing only 190 yards of offense. Against the Jets, they tallied only 202 yards. And without the five Tennessee turnovers that gave them short field after short field in Week 11, the Texans offense wasn’t able to sustain much of anything.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor told reporters after the game that the offense’s performance left a lot to be desired.
“We didn’t execute on third down,” Taylor said. “We didn’t execute in general early downs as well. When you put yourself in third-and-long, those are hard to come by. The flow wasn’t right in the second half and we have to be better at that moving forward.”
31. Houston Texans (2-9, LW: 31)
The Texans made safety Justin Reid a healthy scratch Sunday for violating team rules. No details have been reported so maybe disciplining him was a last resort, but it just seems a bit petty by a team that shouldn’t be alienating its few star players.
The reason for Justin Reid’s benching is still unknown to the general public, but it does certainly scream confusion from a team going through a whirlwind of a season. It’s like they can’t contain themselves, like they’re some force of nature that has to do something odd and head-scratching every week or they’ll spontaneously combust. I’m sure we’ll get a explanation sooner or later, but sometimes it’s more fun if we’re just left in the dark.
Here’s my personal power rankings entering week thirteen:
- Green Bay Packers (9-3) (Last Week: 1)
- Arizona Cardinals (9-2) (Last Week: 2)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3) (Last Week: 3)
- New England Patriots (8-4) (Last Week: 4)
- Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) (Last Week: 5)
- Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) (Last Week: 12)
- Buffalo Bills (7-4) (Last Week: 11)
- Baltimore Ravens (8-3) (Last Week: 10)
- Dallas Cowboys (7-4) (Last Week: 6)
- Tennessee Titans (8-4) (Last Week: 7)
- Los Angeles Rams (7-4) (Last Week: 8)
- San Francisco 49ers (6-5) (Last Week: 16)
- Indianapolis Colts (6-6) (Last Week: 13)
- Los Angeles Chargers (6-5) (Last Week: 9)
- Minnesota Vikings (5-6) (Last Week: 14)
- Cleveland Browns (6-6) (Last Week: 15)
- Las Vegas Raiders (6-5) (Last Week: 22)
- Miami Dolphins (5-7) (Last Week: 24)
- Denver Broncos (6-5) (Last Week: 23)
- Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) (Last Week: 17)
- Washington Football Team (5-6) (Last Week: 20)
- New Orleans Saints (5-6) (Last Week: 18)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5-1) (Last Week: 19)
- Atlanta Falcons (5-6) (Last Week: 25)
- New York Giants (4-7) (Last Week: 27)
- Carolina Panthers (5-7) (Last Week: 21)
- Chicago Bears (4-7) (Last Week: 26)
- Seattle Seahawks (3-8) (Last Week: 28)
- New York Jets (3-8) (last Week: 31)
- Houston Texans (2-9) (Last Week 29)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) (Last Week: 30)
- Detroit Lions (0-10-1) (Last Week: 32)
This is the first power rankings this season where there wasn’t dramatic movement all over the list, but a clustering in the middle is starting to take effect. We’ve now reached a moment where teams ranked 12 -24 have a one or two game difference in record, nearly all of which have them looking like the fate of their season is going to come down to the wire.
Besides the very bad Jets, Texans, Jaguars, and Lions, this is an extremely close, league-wide race to the finish line. It’s anyone’s guess as to who will end up in the Super Bowl, and who may end up in the Super Bowl could be determined in Week Eighteen instead of the NFL Playoffs. This is by far the most parity I’ve ever seen in the NFL, with no true powerhouse and a plethora of teams working themselves into the playoff hunt each passing week.
The AFC East has all of a sudden become wildly entertaining again, with one of the most unfortunate mid-season surprises being the Patriots’ return to excellence. They are arguably the best team in the AFC right now; they can cement that status with a win over division-rival Buffalo on Monday night.
Dallas continues their November skid, but an exhausting Eagles loss to the Giants in New York keeps the division thoroughly unreadable. Washington now moves into second place, but with how close they got to nearly giving up last night’s game against a putrid Seattle team, I doubt they’ll be able to pose much of a challenge to the Cowboys.
Who knows, though? I certainly wasn’t expecting the Broncos to handily beat the Chargers, and I wasn’t expecting the Bengals to ruin the Steelers. The Bengals appear to be hitting their stride again, making those losses to the Jets and Browns a few weeks ago look more like an aberration. With Justin Herbert and Co. coming to Cincinnati next week, another AFC matchup with massive playoff ramifications is set to take place.
Over in the NFC, the 49ers beat the Vikings in a fantastic performance on both sides of the ball that reminded me of their Super Bowl team in 2019. Jimmy Garoppolo appears to be finally back, and the Vikings continue the tradition of torturing their fans.
Next week, the Texans get to play a cranky Colts team that came this close to defeating Tom Brady’s Buccaneers. At 6-6, the Colts’ destiny is still very much up in the air, and with Miami surging, the air is getting thinner. Will they leave Houston one step closer to realizing their regular season comeback, or will they fall prey to TyGOD?
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