If You’re Not Watching the Texans, You Should Be…
Well… at least if you’re a real football fan. But, honestly? You don’t even need to be a die-hard grid iron lover to appreciate what’s happening with this team right now. As you can probably tell, this isn’t the typical write-up you’d normally find on Double G Sports, but I guess they’ll tell you this is what happens when you bet against the Houston Texans.
If there was an award for “most improved team,” the Texans would own that title for the second year running. Now, I don’t like to deal in hypotheticals, but if Schaub had stayed healthy the entire season last year? I can’t help but wonder how deep into the post season we would have gone. We’re now going into Week 14. We’re the first team in the NFL to clinch a playoff birth, Schaub is healthy and the rest of our core is relatively unscathed or will be back in action when it matters (Knock on wood, praise Jeebus, etc.). And aside from the fact that our 2nd year, backup quarterback has as many playoff wins as Tony Romo, here are some reasons you should be paying attention to the Houston Texans:
Matt Schaub… Elite?
Alright, alright… even I couldn’t say that with a totally straight face. But you’ve gotta at least start slightly thinking about it at this point. Trust me, I used to be one of the biggest Schaub haters out there. Every week, I cursed his name. Then about three or four years ago something happened to him. He became the QB he probably always was but could never become until we fixed our OLine. He threw for almost 5,000 yards in 2009, over 4,000 in 2010. Last year, he led the team to it’s most successful season before his injury at 7-3. And this year… well, 11-1 speaks for itself.
He has already etched his name in the record books. In October, he had the third highest QB rating in the league at 105.3. He’s the master of the play action so much so that sometimes at the games, even I don’t know where the ball is. His relationship with Andre Johnson is stronger than ever and it’s evident on the field. He’s on pace to have another 4,000+ yard season with almost 30 TDs. The man had his ear ripped off and his groin kicked in and he STILL went on to lead the team to win those games.
He might be the most un-talked about, under-appreciated QB in the league. Even after the Jacksonville game (where he through for 527 yds – tying Warren Moon for the 2nd most ever by a QB, 5 TDs, with a 78.2% completion rating – the highest ever by a QB with over 50 attempts) his own fan base still made a point of calling in by the masses to local radio stations to hate on him. They clearly failed to see the bigger picture… that this was one of the best performances by a QB in NFL history. I hope we’ll see more of that from him in the future, preferably sometime in say, oh, February 2013. In the mean time, he has a chance to solidify himself in the conversation with the upcoming match-up in New England. Either way, the four letter network and teams throughout the league would do well to stop ignoring Matt Schaub.
Andre Johnson is BACK!
But did he really ever leave? Andre Johnson had a strong pedigree long before this year’s amazing numbers. He is the only receiver in NFL history with at least 60 catches in each of his first eight seasons. He’s surpassed the 10,000 yard mark (10,770). He averages 80.4 yards per game which is the highest in league history among receivers who’ve played 100 games or more, and his receptions per game (5.82) are the most for anyone with at least 500 games played. And if you ask Cortland Finnegan, he throws a mean right hook.
Johnson has been the victim of a lot of skeptics not only in Houston, but in the national media. After last year’s mid-season injury that kept him out for the rest of the year, people wondered if the 31 year old would ever be able to perform at the level that we’ve grown accustomed to witnessing each week. I think this season has put that doubt to rest and buried it in the back yard.
This is now his sixth season of 1,000+ yards (1,114), and there are still 4 games left to go. Johnson set yet another NFL record for most yards in consecutive games with 461. Against the Jaguars, he put up 273 yards on 14 catches (including the winning 48-yard touchdown), and 188 on 9 catches against the Lions. With Matt Schaub’s seemingly newfound confidence in his own abilities, the Texans are on their way to achieving something special. Andre Johnson has a chance to finally be a part of something great. And he deserves every second of it.
JJ Watt is a Freak of Nature
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in a soundproof cave with earplugs in, you know who JJ Watt is. He’s the future defensive player of the year, and makes the strongest case for a defensive MVP candidate since Lawrence Taylor.
Considering I’m his biggest fan and I was a fan long before it was the cool thing to do, I try my best not to drool over #99, but… sometimes it can’t be helped. The 6’5″ 295 lb. Watt has 60 tackles, 50 of them unassisted. He has 16.5 sacks, 31 hits on the quarterback, 27 tackles for loss, and 15 passes deflected. Watt has been instrumental in eight turnovers. He’s forced one fumble and recovered two. Five of his deflections have been intercepted by other Texans defensive players.
In the last 21 years, only one player has combined for more sacks and passes defended than Watt’s 31 1/2. If you’re an NFL offense facing Watt, you’d better be practicing your second and long plays…Watt has an obscene 71 plays for zero or negative yards, 36 happening on first down.
For a guy who’s motto is, “Dream Big, Work Hard,” it seems to be coming through in his personality and his performance. “That’s what they’re paying me to do,” Watt said in a post-game press conference. “I’ve said all along if your goal is not to be the greatest, then you’re wasting your time.” If you ask anyone in that locker room who drives that defense, it’s Watt.
I don’t have to convince you that these stats are @#$%ing ridiculous for a Defensive End in a 3-4. This guy makes watching the game fun. Really fun. He’s one of those players who only comes around once in a blue moon and he’s only 23 years old. His work ethic and attitude can mean only more amazing defensive performances to come barring injury. He has single handedly caused every Texans fan to say, “Mario… who?” He has an arrogance about him that’s actually endearing. The guy is a beast and he knows it. That makes for a dangerous combination. I’m just glad he’s on our side…
In addition to both Schaub and Johnson’s epic performances in these weeks, the team as a whole accomplished great things. Most people would look at the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions and expect us to win those games no problems. Most people saw our struggles with those teams as a huge negative. However, they did what no other NFL team has ever done: played (in essence) 2 1/2 games in 5 days and won both of them. Now, I would never advocate for a player getting hurt and/or knocked out of a game, but the reality is our defense knocking out Blaine Gabbert was the best thing to ever happen to the Jags because they were forced to accept the fact that Chad Henne should be their starter. Our struggles stemmed from the Texans having to deal with a QB who is half-way decent, and one that they didn’t game plan against.
Furthermore, the Detroit game was a prime time away game on only about 78 hours of rest.
The positive thing about those games was not just that they won under such physically restraining circumstances, but that the Texans proved that they can find a way to win no matter what the situation, and that’s not even counting the win over the Bears in Chicago… in Chicago weather… playing Chicago-style, defense driven football.
Look, the reality is Houston doesn’t have what Mike Wilbon likes to call, “a pedigree.” We don’t have any Super Bowl wins. We’ve only won our division once and have only won a single post season game. Everyone in this city knows this and even riding high at 11-1, we’re all cautiously optimistic. But we also know the franchise is only 10 years old. We understand that we didn’t inherit this team from another city, we’ve had to build it from the ground up. We’ve had to endure the pangs of sifting through bad coaches, players and staff for the last 8 years to find the diamonds in the rough. It’s been 17 years since we’ve won a championship in any of the big 3 (Soccer is a different story), and the last time we played for a national title in any of the big 3 sports was in 2005. Now the wait seems to be over. Regardless of how this season ends, it’s been incredibly satisfying to witness the last 10 years and finally see the product of such hard work come to fruition. This team is a young, championship contending team that barring injury will be together for quite a while considering recent contract restructuring and signings.
One of the biggest tests this team will face is tonight against New England. AFC home-field advantage at stake, in Foxborough, likely in the freezing rain, against the only team that is more favored than they are to win the Super Bowl. Some are calling it the game of the year and I’m inclined to agree. We’ll see who exits Boston victorious in just a few hours.
All in all, if you’re not watching the Texans you’re missing out. I know it’s hard to invest any time into another team other than your own city’s, but the fact is Houston is simply playing great football. And great football is something everyone can appreciate and enjoy no matter who the team is (except for maybe the Cowboys). Either way, with or without you, I look forward to enjoying every waking moment of the rest of the 2012 season.