Only a few short weeks ago, the Houston Texans were about to contend for first place in the AFC South with the ability to lock down a playoff spot if the wins kept coming their way.
Then they lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a heartbreaker.
And they did... except the injury bug took out rookie wide receiver Tank Dell in that game. And, sadly, the young star will not return this year.
Despite fan confidence, or urging, or whatever this is, John Metchie III did indeed, not step up yesterday, either.
On Sunday the Texans rolled into MetLife stadium with a chance to improve their playoff standing, but the injury bug bit them again... and again.
Nico Collins, the first 1,000-yard receiver on the Texans in recent memory, went down early with a leg injury. With Dell out, tight end Dalton Schultz out and now Collins out, the Texans are running out receiving targets.
Worst of all, Stroud’s head hit the questionable turf late in the game and he would leave with an alleged concussion.
We all know if this hit happened to Tom Brady the Jets’ Quinnen Williams would have been ejected from pro sports for life.
And into the fray goes Davis Mills, last year’s starter who isn't remotely close to Stroud in ability or achievement. Mills, in relief of Stroud, managed to complete only one of five passes for a disheartening four yards.
If Stroud is unable to return, or return to form, and Davis Mills captains the ship once again, it may be time to start preparing for 2024.
Houston’s ugly performance marred by injuries. The Texans missed a huge opportunity to bolster their playoff position against the seemingly lowly Jets. More importantly, though, Houston saw two of its biggest stars injured in a blowout loss — one early and one late. C.J. Stroud, the runaway favorite for AP Rookie of the Year entering Week 14, entered concussion protocol after striking the back of his head hard against the ground following a fourth-quarter hit. His status will require watching moving forward, with a divisional matchup against the Titans upcoming. Houston’s offense was in disarray even before Stroud went down, though. With Dalton Schultz out and Tank Dell on injured reserve, the Texans needed Nico Collins to deliver. Instead, the breakout WR injured his calf and saw his day end after three snaps. Despite his early departure, he somehow still led the team in receiving yards — with 13 on his lone reception — until under a minute remained in the third quarter. The Texans’ other receiving threats were smothered throughout the afternoon, with seemingly every pass attempt being contested closely by a Jets defender. Outside of one scoring drive that started on a short field thanks to a Jets turnover, there was nothing doing for the Texans. Now, they’ll have to regroup and see where they stand with injuries moving forward.
However, if Stroud and Collins can bounce back, and do so quickly, the Texans do technically still have a shot. Currently, they’re in the thick of the ‘on the bubble’ crowd, alongside a bevy of other NFL teams, including the Buffalo Bills who upset the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday on a controversial penalty (spoiler alert - he was lined up in the neutral zone).
AFC playoff chances from ESPN Analytics, updated through late afternoon window.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) December 11, 2023
(Based on results only, no team rating updates)
With four games remaining, two against the Tennessee Titans, one against the Indianapolis Colts and one against the [NAME REDACTED] led Cleveland Browns, DeMeco Ryans still has a shot at getting his team of upstarts into the post season. But, the odds are stacked against him if players don’t get healthy or the injury bug takes another major bite.
And, in the Eating Crow Department, Sauce Gardner is currently holding a 83.4 overall PFF grade, while Derek Stingley Jr. slid to 76.7. So much for hoping Sting would have a better game than Sauce.