By Sam McPherson
Ask any professional athlete, and they all will say the same thing: They just want the chance to control their own destiny in terms of winning a championship. The 2015 Houston Texans are no different, and now they have the chance to do exactly that with just four games left on the NFL regular-season schedule. Starting with this Sunday night’s home game against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Texans can run the table and make the the playoffs.
It won’t be easy, especially after the Buffalo Bills just beat Houston last weekend in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. That loss ended a four-game win streak for the Texans, and now the New England Patriots come to town. After that, Houston travels to Indianapolis and Tennessee before ending the season at home against Jacksonville. Each game presents its own challenge, so the Texans will have to be at their best to win the AFC South.
The Patriots Game
After starting the season 10-0, New England has lost two straight games. Losing to the Denver Broncos on the road wasn’t that much of a shocker, but losing at home to the Philadelphia Eagles last week certainly was surprising. You have to go back a long way to find a three-game losing streak for the Patriots. The Texans have their work cut out for them.
The positives here include the health of the two teams and the location of the game. New England has a lot of injuries to cope with on both sides of the ball, while Houston’s roster is relatively healthy. The Texans had their injury problems earlier in the season, but they are getting stronger now. Playing a depleted Patriots squad at home needs to be enough for Houston to get this win, period. Tom Brady & Co. won’t go down without a fight, however.
Back in Week 5, the Colts came to town and pinned a seven-point loss on the Texans. Since then, Houston has won five of seven, however, to draw even with Indy atop the AFC South. The Colts are playing without their star quarterback (Andrew Luck), and even though this rematch will be in Indianapolis, the Texans have to like the prospect of facing one of the worst defenses in the league with the division lead on the line.
The Colts are giving up 25.4 points per game, which is the seventh-worst mark in the NFL. With QB Brian Hoyer and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins clicking, the Houston offense has a chance to run up a big number on the Lucas Oil Stadium scoreboard. This game is a must-win situation for the Texans, because of the earlier loss to Indianapolis. A loss here, for all intents and purposes, kills Houston’s chance at winning the division.
Titan Up On The Road
Tennessee is 3-9 this year after winning a shootout at home against the Jaguars on Sunday. Rookie QB Marcus Mariota is on his way to being a star in this league, but he doesn’t have the supporting cast right now to win consistently. That’s how the Texans can take advantage of this matchup with their defense: Force Mariota to beat them on his own.
It’s shocking how little talent the Titans have on their roster, and they’re probably at least two more seasons away from competing in this division. Thus, Houston needs to just stay the course and beat a team it should beat in order to stay alive for the AFC South title. Remember, the Texans posted a 14-point victory over Tennessee at home already this season.
Back Home For All The Jax
If Houston takes care of business up to this point, the team will be able to clinch the AFC South win a home win in the final week of the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars. It won’t be easy, though, as the Jags are more competitive than their 4-8 record suggests. The Jacksonville defense is bad, but the offense has been scoring on almost everyone recently, thanks to second-year QB Blake Bortles and some good WRs.
The Texans posted a 31-20 win earlier this season against the Jags on the road, so Houston would just have to hold serve on its home court here to make its 2015 dreams come true. Again, the good news is that the Texans know they control their own destiny. With these four wins, Houston would be back in the postseason for the first time since 2012.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey and fantasy sports for CBS, AXS and Examiner. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach.