Like the 1977 movie, Black Sunday, fans just never know when disaster might strike.
(In Doomsday Scenarios (Part 1): What Could Sabotage The Texans’ 2020 Season, we learned what could happen that would make the team face a doomsday scenario. In Part 2, we learn that there are more things that could push the team’s season to the edge of survival).
THE TEAM CANNOT OVERCOME A BRUTAL SCHEDULE AND TOUGHER DIVISION
This scenario could incorporate elements from the first two awful possibilities, but there is a chance that even with good health and solid head coach/general manager/player relations, the Texans could still have a bad year just based on the schedule. Assuming that the season opens as planned, the Texans drew the NFL’s version of Murderer’s Row: @ Chiefs, Ravens, @ Steelers, Vikings. Three playoff teams. Pittsburgh will have a formidable defense and, in theory, a healthy Ben Roethlisberger at QB. 1-3 or 0-4 against that line-up is not out of the question. On top of that, the AFC South could be brutal, with the Titans off an AFC Championship run and the Colts armed with a motivated Philip Rivers at QB. Just with that slate, going 4-4 in those eight games could be a remarkable achievement. That would mean the team would need to run the table against the rest of the schedule, which the Texans can do, but that is not a given.
That is not to say that the Texans are completely doomed. A healthy Deshaun Watson should keep them in most games, and if the team is blessed with good health, if the new offensive acquisitions of Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb and David Johnson gel, and if the defense under Anthony Weaver can show some improvement from last season, they should be competitive in every game. Additionally, there is no certainty as to what the season will look like. With the eight games mentioned, 0-8 is not impossible, but a winning record is just as likely. How hard will J.J. Watt, Justin Reid, Whitney Mercilus and the rest of the defense have to work to keep these first four opponents from racking up points like a pinball score?
HOW LIKELY IS THIS TO HAPPEN? No team has a harder schedule to start the season. The Texans will have to be at their best. They’ve been doubted before and gotten off to terrible starts, but still managed to appear in the NFL Playoffs. Houston can actually win those games; at the very least, they must play well and avoid major injuries/listless efforts. 1-3 does not eliminate them, but with the AFC South as dangerous as ever, 0-4 may be a bridge too far. A losing record on the season could have ramifications for team morale, rebuilding prospects, and maybe, just maybe, Bill O’Brien’s future in Houston. The implications afterwards match with previous scenarios.
COVID-19 CASES RAVAGE THE TEAM, CAUSING CASCADING NEGATIVE IMPACTS THROUGHOUT THE LEAGUE
After the final whistle in the divisional playoff game in January, the Texans had a lot of concerns and issues. Worrying about a pandemic was not even remotely considered. Seven months later, COVID-19 dominates the discussion/actions of the NFL and the world. New testing protocols, health procedures, changes to practices, and drastic scheduling/playing changes present new challenges to players and staff alike. The NFL did not suffer the impacts that the NHL, NBA and MLB did when COVID-19 came to America, but as August moves towards fall and this strain of Coronavirus not showing any signs of going away, the NFL must face reality. They altered the schedule to account for delays and have accepted that some stadiums may not have fans, but multiple players have already tested positive for the virus. Most have been asymptomatic and/or experienced milder symptoms, but that won’t always be the case. As seen with MLB, which did not enforce a quarantine bubble, teams are quite susceptible to outbreaks that could drastically disrupt the season/competitive balance. Everything from missing key players to outright cancellation of games could throw everything out of balance.
During the offseason, multiple media reports indicated several Texans players tested positive for COVID-19, but to date, no serious health impacts/disruptions have come to light. One Texans player, defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, opted out of the 2020 season. The squad opened training camp early, along with the Chiefs and to date, the protocols seem to be working. Yet the City of Houston still ranks among the world leaders in current COVID-19 cases, and American football, with its large rosters and staff engaging in games that require close and continual physical contact, could present the virus with another prime spreading opportunity.
HOW LIKELY IS THIS TO HAPPEN? It is only a matter of time before someone on the Texans’ squad, either player or staff, turns up positive again. False positive or not, the current protocols would take that individual out of team activities, to include games, until the individual is cleared. Given the aforementioned depth situation with the Texans, the loss of a key player at a key point of the season could provide damaging.
Yet the real pain comes if multiple players start testing positive, especially within a couple of days/hours before a game. A massive loss of players could leave the team scrambling to make sure it had enough healthy bodies just to suit up. If severe enough, the NFL could postpone, or cancel, games. Major League Baseball has already had to upend significant parts of its schedule due to outbreaks with the Florida Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies. Unfortunately, the NFL does not lend itself to the flexibility that the MLB does, which assumes that baseball can finish a shortened season. The NFL’s schedule unfolds during the prime season for influenza which, when coupled with the continued presence of COVID-19, could present a nightmare scenario that the league, due to legal action from state and federal level, along with player/executive concerns, might have to pull the plug on the 2020-21 season.
ONE OF THE “DOOMSDAY” SCENARIOS FROM THE TV PROGRAM OCCURS DURING A GAME
Since I mentioned it in Part I as the inspiration for these posts, I guess I have to account for one of those scenarios actually occurring. Honestly, if it was a rogue planet or the threat of nuclear war, there would be a chance that games would not be played (build-up to war might force cancellation to avoid mass gatherings, and there would be enough notice of an inbound planet/asteroid that I think playing a football game is highly unlikely). Yet if it was something like a coronal mass ejection or a massive gamma ray strike that occurs with little to no warning, it might just hit during a game. At a minimum, this type of event would shut down all recreational activities for generations. This assumes that humanity will survive and be able to rebuild some semblance of a civilization that will engage in games like football.
On the plus side, the Texans won’t have to sweat those lost draft picks.
HOW LIKELY IS THIS TO HAPPEN? Not completely impossible. However, since this is 2020, I wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. Actually, for something like an asteroid strike or CME, we are probably overdue. The CME could prove especially devastating, given its relatively short-notice lead-up and its impact on electricity, which is perhaps one of the most critical requirements for humanity today. If we suffer something like this with little to no warning, knowing the Texans, it will happen at the most inopportune time. Probably right as the team is in victory formation, seconds away from officially clinching the franchise’s first championship.
How Texans would it be for the world’s power grid to crash just as Houston took the field for their first Super Bowl?
That concludes my presentation of the Doomsday Scenarios that could wreck the upcoming Texans’ season and beyond. This does not mean that I expect any of these to happen, but it would not completely surprise me if they do.
Does this sound plausible? Have some other scenarios that could negatively impact the franchise? The future of humanity? If the season does go sideways, what do you think will be the most likely cause?