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2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week Seventeen

Where do the Texans land after their upset win over the Chargers?

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

brainstorm, take me away from the norm!

I’ve got some tell you something!

By the power of 311, the Texans won again! They’ve done it again, and against Justin Herbert, no less!

In their first winning streak of the season, the Houston Texans completely dismantled the Los Angeles Chargers’ defense in an effort that put Davis Mills center stage, and boy, did he perform!

Davis Mills entered the draft a raw, unproven prospect with some serious upside as a pocket passer. On the day after Christmas, Davis Mills showed a snapshot of what he’s capable of against a (supposedly) NFL caliber team. After his abysmal performances at the beginning of the year, I had resigned myself to believing there would be no exceptional Mills performances until at least his second year. After a game like this, I couldn’t be more happy to be wrong.

Here’s where everyone is ranking the Houston Texans after their incredulous victory against the Los Angeles Chargers:


28. Houston Texans (4-11)

Previous ranking: 30

Non-QB MVP: WR Brandin Cooks

Coming into the season, it was clear the Texans didn’t have a lot of depth at receiver behind Cooks. Although Cooks missed the Texans’ Week 16 contest while on the reserve/COVID-19 list — a game Houston won — he has been the best player on the team. Cooks is just 55 yards shy of reaching 1,000 receiving yards for the sixth time in his eight NFL campaigns, and this season he has done it with a mix of Tyrod Taylor and 2021 third-round pick Davis Mills at quarterback. Cooks is a leader on the team, and this offense would have struggled even more this season without him. — Sarah Barshop


27. Houston Texans (4-11)

Previous rank: No. 29

The Texans’ offense delivered its best performance of the season against the Chargers. Rex Burkhead tore into a vulnerable Los Angeles run defense for 149 yards and two touchdowns, while Davis Mills completed 21 of 27 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover. It continued an intriguing run of quality performances by Mills, the third-round rookie who has played smart and efficient football since replacing Tyrod Taylor as starter three weeks ago. That doesn’t mean the Texans won’t be in the market for a QB after they finally part ways with Deshaun Watson, but Mills has earned a chair in the quarterback room going forward.


28. Texans (4-11, No. 30): The gang that couldn’t tank straight continues to screw up their draft position with meaningless late-season wins.


30. Texans (31): Per the NFL, Mills is the third rookie QB ever with at least 250 passing yards, two TD throws and a 130+ passer rating in multiple games. He joins Robert Griffin III and Justin Herbert ... so clearly this could go one of two ways.


28. Houston Texans (4–11)

Last week: Win vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 41–29

Next week: at San Francisco

Davis Mills is a real feel-good story, and it is interesting to think about how we’d consider his rookie season if he came into it with the same expectations as the first-round picks in his draft class. He spoke to our Albert Breer about it after beating the Chargers.


28. Houston Texans (4-11)

David Culley has this team playing good football. Davis Mills has impressed and might be their long-term starter if he keeps it up.


28. Houston Texans (4-11)

Last Week: 30

Week 16 Result: Won vs. Los Angeles Chargers 41-29

There hasn’t been much go right in Houston this season. And one meaningless December win over the Chargers isn’t going to reverse that or take away the cloud of uncertainty that hovers over the franchise.

But earning a second win this year over a team that could make the playoffs has to feel awfully good.

Despite the fact that the Texans had 16 players on the COVID-19/reserve list, including their best edge-rusher (Jonathan Greenard), leading tackler (Kamu Grugier-Hill) and No. 1 wide receiver (Brandin Cooks), they handled the Chargers with surprising ease to notch their second consecutive win. After the game, Houston head coach David Culley praised his players for facing the week’s adversity head-on.

“Those guys came in, and they showed that they were ready to do what we needed to get done,” he said. “This team is so resilient. They’ve never really worried about what happens on the outside. All we’ve tried to do is just get better.”

Keeping this momentum going is not going to be easy, though. Houston’s last two games are against teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today.

Of course, no one thought the Texans had a chance against the Chargers either.


30. Houston Texans (4-11, LW: 31)

Davis Mills played well again, this time without Brandin Cooks. The Texans haven’t done much right, but they have a third-round draft pick who arguably has been the second-best rookie QB this season.

After our first winning streak of the season, the Houston Texans are now 4-11 and just one win behind the once celebrated Carolina Panthers. At one point earlier in the season, I thought the Carolina Panthers would be able to ride their defense into the playoffs after their 3-0 start, and now some have even ranked the Texans over them.

To think if Davis Mills is capable of this much improvement in his first season, surrounded by one of the most lackluster supporting casts in the NFL, there is plenty of reason to be excited for the future. Big plays by Ross Blacklock, Brevin Jordan, and Nico Collins are more shining stars in a future that all of the sudden is not as dark as previously believed. There’s a core of talented players in Houston, and if the Texans’ office pulls the right levers during the offseason, this franchise can be looking up much faster than it’s expecting to be looking back down.

Here’s my personal power rankings entering week seventeen:

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

The Texans are rising back up in the power rankings! We are finally entering the part of the season where playoff teams separate themselves from the pack, and the Texans played the part of the trap game perfectly against the once Super Bowl hopeful Chargers, potentially knocking the other Los Angeles team out of the NFL Playoffs. With so many teams in danger of going 9-8, the AFC wild card race might end up filled with double-digit win teams, putting the Chargers in a situation where they will have to win out to even have a chance.

In the NFC, the Eagles have surged past the Vikings and the Washington Football Team, who gave the country a feast for the eyes on Sunday night when they lost 56-14 to the Cowboys. The Eagles may have their season come down to that final division game; if Sunday night’s game was any indication, the Eagles have an inside track to the promised land.

Next week, the Texans are flying to San Francisco to take on the Garoppoless 49ers. If Davis Mills has another banner game, the 2022 NFL MVP conversation will begin. Right?

Follow me on Twitter: @FizzyJoe