The Houston Texans had a great Week 12. A big win over the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night put them solidly in first place in the AFC South (by half a game) and lined them up for a projected three-seed in the NFL Playoffs (you know, if the season ended today.) It was a close game at 20-17, but Houston got the job done. Now they’ve just got five games left before the postseason – and one of them is against the New England Patriots.
The Texans and the Colts each entered Thursday night’s contest with records of 6-4, so this was a big tiebreaker game for both teams. But Houston really needed a win after an embarrassing 41-7 blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week. Not only did the Texans manage to avoid back-to-back losses, but they secured a key divisional victory, aided by the return of a crucial WR and strong defense.
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The Texans Offense and Return of Fuller!
Texans wide receiver Will Fuller V returned to the field with a vengeance on Thursday after missing three games due to a hamstring injury. Fuller had seven receptions and 140 receiving yards against the Colts, showing why he’s one of the biggest deep threats in the league. The wideout also helps quarterback Deshaun Watson play better. Career-wise, Watson averages 62.5 more passing yards and 1.1 passing touchdowns per game when Fuller is on the field. The Texans should be thankful for his speedy recovery and the way he opens up things for DeAndre Hopkins as well.
Speaking of, Hopkins was a star wide receiver in this game too, with six receptions for two touchdowns and 94 receiving yards of his own. He’s an essential player and key to the Texans having any shot at beating the Patriots next week.
Houston’s offense has been making big plays as of late, including two huge throws from Watson to Fuller of 44 and 51 yards each. Despite this not being one of Watson’s best games, the young QB finished with 298 yards, 2 TDs, and one interception. But it was those big plays that made up for all of his inconsistencies and missed throws.
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The Texans Defense
The loss of star defender JJ Watt hasn’t been easy on the Texans. On the bright side, however, the Texans’ backups are really proving their worth. After a plague of injuries sidelined several more defensive backs, Houston picked up cornerback Gareon Conley from the Raiders and Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, both of whom have played much better for the Texans (so far) than their previous teams.
But the Houston defense can still improve. The Texans O-line is solid at pass-blocking, but they need to tighten up against the run, where they’ve been struggling since Week 2. As evidence of this on Thursday, the defense effectively shut out the Colts’ passing efforts, but then Indianapolis was able to get things going on the ground. Luckily, Houston’s D was able to crank things up in the fourth quarter and stop the Colts’ attempt at a game-winning drive. Ultimately, the Texans defense came out looking like the game-winning heroes with a clutch tackle on fourth down, but they’ll need to learn to consistently stop the rush if they hope to be more than a one-and-done team in the playoffs.
According to Houston’s head coach Bill O’Brien, “It was a good team win. Guys came in here on Monday to turn the page and were very focused this week and it showed up on the field.”
The battle for the AFC South division title certainly isn’t over yet, and a lot will depend on what happens to the Colts going forward. The Texans also have to play the Titans two more times before the season ends. After bouncing back this week, they’ll host the Patriots and Tom Brady in Houston next weekend (get tickets here!), and it should be a real challenge (and huge opportunity) for this Texans team.