The Texans Can Lock Up the AFC South This Weekend

So the Texans got their butts kicked by the Patriots on Monday Night Football to the tune of 42-14 in Foxboro. A lot of criticism was bandied about earlier this season about how the Texans might be a mirage, how Matt Schaub can’t win in big games, how the Texans wilt against superstar quarterbacks. None of that was proven wrong in the embarrassment that occurred on Monday night. The Patriots took the Texans to the woodshed on national TV in a statement game. That statement? The Patriots aren’t ready to be done being the best team in the AFC.

“I sensed it from the coin toss. It was business, straight up, to them,” Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith said after the game. “You can see just how serious they were. They’ve been here before. I’m a movie buff, you know. It reminded me of that movie, ‘Troy,’ when Achilles told Hector, ‘Now you know what you’re dealing with.’ That’s what it was like. No love. ‘We’re coming in here to show y’all who the big dogs are.’”

The Texans, though they are 11-2, a win better than the New England Patriots, sure didn’t look like it on Monday. The Texans have been bitten by the injury bug, and the schedule makers put the Texans through a brutal stretch of road games in November and December, but a team that has Super Bowl aspirations should not get killed like they did. “Obviously, I didn’t do enough game-plan-wise against the guy,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “It doesn’t feel like you have more wins than New England right now.”

It was a grotesque way for a presumptive Super Bowl-caliber team to lose. Just how bad was it? The Texans became the first team since 2007 to be at least 10 games over .500 and lose by 28 points. It was only the third time that that dubious distinction has happened since 2000. However, despite the sour taste, the Texans are in a prime position this weekend to lock up their division. They have already locked up a playoff spot. Here is the situation that faces the Texans this weekend as they seek to win the AFC South and possibly even secure a first-round bye in the playoffs:

Houston clinches AFC South division with:

1) HOU win

Houston clinches a first-round bye with:

1)      HOU win + NE loss or tie + DEN loss

However, in order for Houston to achieve their goals this weekend, they have to contend with a supremely hungry and revitalized Indianapolis Colts team led by rookie quarterback phenomenon Andrew Luck. The Colts are one of the best stories in the NFL this season, rising from total incompetence last year to a team seemingly poised to claim a playoff spot. “There’s no doubt. We should have a perfect record in the division. We gave a game away,” said Colts interim head coach Bruce Arians.  “Houston won the division last year. Indianapolis won it seven out of the last 10. It is time to hopefully go back and re-establish ourselves as the dominant team in the division. That’s our goal. ”

The line for this game currently sits at Houston -10, which, if you’ve watched the Colts at all this season, you know is far too high. They’re a young, hungry team with a lot to prove, and will come out fired up this weekend. The Texans, meanwhile, are slumping in virtually every aspect of their game, but especially defensively with star cornerback Johnathan Joseph sidelined with an injury. They’re extremely susceptible to big pass plays, and guess what the Colts can do? Even if the Colts don’t win outright, I love them at +10 here.

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