Now that the New Orleans Saints have had their 10-game winning streak snapped, the Houston Texans are officially the hottest team in the NFL. The Texans stumbled their way to a disastrous 0-3 start to the season that put head coach Bill O’Brien on the hot seat.
However, that 0-3 start looks like ancient history at this point. Houston has since reeled off 9 consecutive wins, which is good for the longest active winning streak in the league.
At 9-3, the Texans are now in the driver’s seat in the AFC South. With the Jaguars and Titans struggling after being playoff teams a season ago, the Texans really don’t have a ton of competition, either. The Indianapolis Colts look like Houston’s chief challenger at this point, but the Colts can’t be feeling too great about themselves following a sluggish 6-0 loss in Jacksonville in Week 13.
The Texans suddenly find themselves with a very realistic shot at nabbing a bye in the first round of the AFC playoffs for the first time in their brief franchise history. Is this the year the Texans finally take the next step and establish themselves as one of the NFL’s elite teams? The Texans have 4 games left to play, and there is a chance they win them all to finish the year 13-3.
Can Houston actually run the table? Of course, this is something you can bet on. Let’s break it down.
As mentioned, the Texans have 4 regular season games left to play. Houston will host the aforementioned Colts in Week 14 before traveling to New Jersey to take on the lowly New York Jets the week after. The Texans will play a second consecutive road game against the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16 before coming home to Houston to face Jacksonville in the season finale.
That’s not a particularly daunting schedule. The Texans have already beaten the Colts and Jaguars once this season, and neither is likely to mount a serious playoff push. The Jets are one of the worst teams in football this season, so Houston should be able to beat them even away from home.
The toughest test for the Texans will come when they take on the Eagles in Philadelphia. However, the Eagles have been quite the disappointment this season. Philly is just 6-6 through 12 games, which has them looking up at the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. There is still time for the Eagles to win that division (Dallas is only 7-5), but this hasn’t looked like the team that stormed its way to a championship last season.
Philadelphia has struggled to establish a consistent rushing attack since Jay Ajayi was lost for the season with an injury early in the year. That has put an awful lot of weight on the shoulders of Carson Wentz, who has looked a bit shaky since returning from his season-ending ACL tear he suffered last December. There is still some capable weaponry in the passing attack, but consistency has eluded this team.
Meanwhile, the Texans have found a rhythm on both sides of the football. They haven’t been a dominant force over the course of their entire 9-game winning streak, but the Texans are clearly not lacking talent. Patrick Mahomes is stealing the headlines this season, but Deshaun Watson is still chugging along as one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the game.
Since Watson found his footing following an ACL injury of his own last year, the Texans’ offense has proven tough to stop. Houston has scored at least 20 points in 7 of their 9 wins on the season, and they’re getting healthy at the right time.
Will Fuller has already been lost for the season, but Houston managed to get itself a quality replacement by trading for Denver’s Demaryius Thomas. The Texans are also set to get promising young running back D’Onta Foreman back from an Achilles injury.
With 4 very winnable games left on the schedule, I don’t think it’s out of the question in the least to suggest that Houston can run the table here. Facing 2 divisional rivals at home will help, plus the Jets haven’t been the most daunting opponent for anybody this season. If they can get past what should be a desperate Eagles team in Week 16, I like their chances.
So, give me “yes” at +275 here. It’s not the safest bet in the world, but the Texans are winning me over right now. They look like the real deal.
Now we’re talking. I think the Texans stand an excellent chance at winning their final 4 regular season games, but can they keep the winning streak going into the playoffs? Considering the NFL playoffs are single-elimination, we’re basically wagering on the Texans winning the Super Bowl with this bet. That is obviously quite a bit more complicated.
The AFC has been better than some expected this season. Teams like the Chiefs and Chargers emerging as legitimate Super Bowl threats was a development not a whole lot of people saw coming. Most preseason prognosticators figured the AFC would come down to either the Patriots or Steelers, as seems to be the case just about every year.
The conference may still very well come down to either the Patriots or Steelers, but the other teams aren’t going to go quietly. The Chargers announced that they’re for real by going into Pittsburgh and staging a dramatic come-from-behind win over the Steelers in Week 13. The Chiefs have looked like the best team in the AFC all year long, and the offense isn’t slowing down, even without Kareem Hunt.
I will feel a lot better about the Texans’ chances of winning the Super Bowl if they’re able to earn the bye in the first round of the AFC playoffs. If the season ended today, the Chiefs and Patriots would have the top 2 seeds in the conference.
The Texans and Patriots have the same record, but New England won the head-to-head meeting between these teams back in Week 1, so they would get the nod if they finish the season with identical records. Like the Pats and Texans, the Chargers are also 9-3.
The Patriots get the gift of facing their 3 AFC East rivals before season’s end, but they also face a tough test with a road date in Pittsburgh in Week 15. Because of that, I think the Texans have the slightly easier schedule moving forward. The Chargers have the most difficult schedule of the 3 by a wide margin, as they’ll still have to face the Chiefs, Ravens and Broncos before season’s end.
Even if the Texans do get the bye, getting through New England, Pittsburgh, Kansas City or L.A. will be a tall order. And, if the Texans are able to survive the AFC playoffs, beating the NFC representative in the Super Bowl is going to be incredibly difficult. The Saints and Rams are the current odds-on favorites to win it all this season, and I do believe one of those 2 will wind up playing in the Super Bowl.
Houston is a team trending in the right direction, but I can’t see them winning the Super Bowl this season. Stranger things have happened, but the Texans may still be a year or 2 away. They just don’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with teams like New Orleans or the Los Angeles Rams, so I will have to side with “no” on Houston keeping the winning streak alive through the entirety of the postseason at -10000.
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