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2021 NFL Power Rankings: Week 3

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

Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal Jeff Lange via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Well, it was looking safe to say the Texans are actually far superior than expected this year until the injury bug swept through the entire offense like the plague. Tyrod Taylor, Danny Amendola, Terrance Mitchell, Nico Collins, and Justin Reid all got knocked out of the Browns game at one point or another. That thin line of resistance against being a hopeless team finally snapped, and at the worst time, too.

Playing host the burning hot Panthers on Thursday night, Houston has practically no time to recover from the massive hit to their starting lineup. Will this ultimately matter by the end of the season? Probably not, but in the moment, one can only wonder how competitive Houston would have kept it behind Taylor’s elite-level quarterbacking before his hamstring injury. So it goes with Taylor, a brief flash of fantastic dual-threat quarterbacking quickly snuffed out by unceremonious leg injuries or vengeful syringes. As soon as Tyrod giveth, Tyrod taketh away.

While most of the injuries were fortunately not very serious, it was reported than both Tyrod Taylor and Nico Collins could miss up to four weeks with their respective injuries. It would certainly be a massive letdown to an otherwise enthralling start for Houston, but the potential for either players to return sooner is still a possibility.

Until then, though, it’s time for the DAVIS MILLS EXPERIENCE!

This rookie quarterback may have performed subpar in his relief performance in Cleveland, but he’s going to have to start out hot on Thursday against a Carolina defense currently leading the league in sacks (10), quarterback hits (21), yards allowed per game (190.0), points allowed per game (10.5), and defensive third-down percentage (25.0). The Panthers simply have the best defense in the NFL right now, a great team for our rookie third round quarterback with inconsistent accuracy and decision-making to open up his career with.

Yeah I’m not too encouraged by Sunday’s performance to put any stock in this game. Unless Houston’s offensive line becomes the league’s best overnight, there is no hope for the offense to do anything except create turnovers, leaving the defense as our only hope against Matt Rhule’s monster. And, in classic Frankensteinian fashion, Rhule has resurrected the career of quarterback Sam Darnold, turning him into a deadly force of passing prowess, laying waste to all that ignored a Panthers organization that may find itself in a Super Bowl sooner rather than later. To think that there was a brief moment in February where Sam Darnold could have been our starter, only for different waves of managerial and back-office efforts to gather enough momentum to sling him down to Charlotte.

But, all that Houston has done thus far is surprise and impress, so maybe this will be the coming out game for that Texans pass-defense that we were teased during the preseason. Or maybe Davis Mills will turn into Justin Herbert right before our very eyes. Either way, it will make for interesting football as the subtle taste of anticipation builds upon expectations within our fan base psyche that expected none of the sort this season. And in that way, Houston has already taught us our first lesson of the 2021 season: anyone can cook.

NFL: SEP 19 Texans at Browns Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Yeah, but what about last year?

Last year we spent week two losing to the Baltimore Ravens. As divine punishment for some cosmic sin, the Texans were forced to play the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs in week one, and then follow it up against reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in week two. This was the game where current Texans starting running back Mark Ingram II roundhouse kicked our logo in the face after twisting the dagger of an 0-2 start into our hearts:

Here’s what Dan Hanzus of NFL.com had to say about us back then:

21. Houston Texans (0-2)

Previous rank: No. 15

Lopsided losses to the Chiefs and Ravens tell us the Texans are not even in the conversation of AFC contenders right now. Houston was barely competitive against Baltimore, pounded in every aspect of the game in a 33-16 defeat. Here’s one problem of many: Deshaun Watson looks like a star QB adrift without DeAndre Hopkins. Will Fuller, the fifth-year wide receiver expected to step into the No. 1 role vacated by Hopkins, finished without a catch (or a target!) against the Ravens. Is that on Fuller? Bill O’Brien? In reality, it’s probably a combination of both. Up next for Houston is a trip to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers, the third of the unholy terrors in the AFC. The schedule-makers owe the Texans a huge solid in 2021.

The Texans, Chiefs, and Ravens will be compared and pinned against each other over and over again because of how intertwined their success stories were during the 2018 and 2019 seasons. During that stretch of time, it appeared that those three teams were going to become the class of the AFC for the next several years. How quickly things change.

Here’s where the world of sports is ranking the Houston Texans entering week three of the 2021 season:

ESPN:

27. Houston Texans (1-1)

Previous ranking: 29

Fantasy surprise: RB Mark Ingram II

Because the Texans have five running backs on the roster, it made it a harder decision about whether one of the veteran backs (Ingram, Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson) was startable. It was Ingram in Week 1 who led the way with 85 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He fueled the team again against the Browns, although he didn’t get in the end zone. A lot of how the Texans’ running backs are used will depend on the game script, which is why Johnson led the group in snaps played in Week 2. — Sarah Barshop

NFL.COM:

28. Houston Texans (1-1)

Previous rank: No. 29

Tyrod Taylor was cooking up an upset special on Sunday in Cleveland. The journeyman QB completed his first 10 passes and scored a pair of early touchdowns against the heavily favored Browns. Then, misfortune visited the star-crossed passer once again. Taylor pulled his hamstring in the final seconds of the first half — the injury knocked him out of the game and led to a quick scratch from Thursday’s Week 3 tilt against the Panthers. Texans coach David Culley was quick to dismiss any thought that Deshaun Watson could re-enter the picture, so instead it will be rookie Davis Mills getting his first career start against a thriving Carolina defense in prime time. This doesn’t feel promising.

PRO FOOTBALL TALK:

28. Texans (1-1, No. 28): To their credit, they are much better than the complete and total mess we thought they’d be.

USA TODAY:

28. Texans (27): Bad enough we have to see them on a national stage in Week 3. But now we have to watch third-round rookie QB Davis Mills replace perennially luckless Tyrod Taylor while Deshaun Watson continues collecting paychecks from his couch.

THE RINGER:

25. Houston Texans (1-1)

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED:

31. Houston Texans (1–1)

Last week: Loss at Cleveland, 31–21

Next week: vs. Carolina (Thursday)

The Texans did actually win a game, albeit against the Jaguars, and they looked good enough doing so that it was tempting to put them above more of the seven remaining winless teams. But with Tyrod Taylor now hurt and Davis Mills in line to take over, I think they’ll be back at No. 32 before too long.

CBS SPORTS:

28. Houston Texans (1-1)

With Tyrod Taylor out, rookie Davis Mills gets the start against Carolina. After his first series against the Browns, he did some good things.

BLEACHER REPORT:

27. Houston Texans (1-1)

Last Week: 27

Week 2 Result: Lost at Cleveland 31-21

Let’s get this out of the way.

We were wrong about the Houston Texans. After blasting the Jaguars in Week 1, the Texans were giving the Cleveland Browns all they could handle in the first half of Sunday’s game.

But then starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor pulled his hamstring, and with third-round rookie Davis Mills thrust into action, the Texans just couldn’t keep up.

With Taylor’s availability to play Thursday night against the Panthers up in the air, head coach David Culley was asked if we could see Deshaun Watson under center in Week 3.

“Deshaun Watson will be deactivated this week just like he’s been for the first two ballgames,” Culley said, per Mark Berman of KRIV. ”As far as Tyrod goes, at this point right now, it’s day-to-day. He’s getting an MRI. He’s been looked at. We’ll just see this afternoon how it is. If he’s able to go he’ll play”

Per Aaron Wilson, Taylor’s MRI revealed a Grade 2 strain that could sideline Taylor a month. Mills will make his first career start against the Panthers.

“It’s really too bad that Taylor got hurt,” Davenport said. “Given how many expected the Texans to be one of the league’s worst teams, it was impressive to see the level he had the offense operating at. Hopefully he’ll be back soon, because there is some real spoiler potential with this Texans team while he’s leading it.”

YAHOO! SPORTS:

31. Houston Texans (1-1, LW: 31)

Tyrod Taylor hasn’t been ruled out of Thursday’s game yet, but it would be a tough turnaround. The Texans have been very competitive this season, but that job gets tougher if Davis Mills is at quarterback.

NFL: Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Looks like a lot of analysts are starting the change their tune about the Texans now that they saw Tyrod carve up a Super Bowl contender for two quarters. It’s still likely that the Texans will finish with five or less wins, making the majority of analysts correct to espouse such pessimism, but it seems like many of us forgot how good of a quarterback Tyrod Taylor really is, and how the offense in Houston was complementing his play fairly effectively. Now, with Tyrod gone, the prognosis of failure hangs around, but with much more grim undertones. With Mills, Houston can only hope to remain competitive. With Tyrod, the Texans can give nearly anyone a good scare. Too bad it’s not Halloween, yet.

Here’s my power rankings entering week three:

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

There’s a lot of teams out there that are hard to make sense of. New Orleans went from destroying the almighty Packers to getting run over by the Panthers, the Chargers have several chances to beat the Cowboys but couldn’t bring themselves to do it (in classic Charger fashion), the Titans might be back to normal and the Vikings can’t catch a break.

These are some of the best weeks of the football season, because it’s impossible to tell which team is going to kick off their winning streak, which team will become the dramatic storyline the whole country will follow, which player will lead their team to unforeseen heights with an MVP campaign, and which 2020 playoff teams will crash and burn into a rebuild. Right now, I have the Panthers and the Broncos as this year’s biggest surprises, both having a real shot at the playoffs. If Tyrod can get healthy and start playing well again, Houston can find itself in that conversation, as well. But until then, we’ll just have to let the anticipation build.

Follow me on Twitter @FizzyJoe

NFL: Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports