After five weeks of the NFL season the Texans stood alone as the only undefeated team in the AFC (one of just 2 undefeateds league wide along with Atlanta). Texans fans were dreaming big for maybe the first time in their franchises existence, a franchise first superbowl visit looked there for the taking. Then Sunday night the Texans crumbled in their first big game of the year. The walls just fell down around the team and their league best defense looked like a JV team playing varsity, their offense couldn’t move the chains and they were thoroughly hammered by the Green Bay Packers to the tune of 42-24. Now the Texans need to pick up the pieces and figure out if Sunday was a bump in the road, or if that is what this team is.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the Texans are a great team that just suffered a setback and will likely rebound soon. They have the best point differential in the league, their defense and offense are both still near the top of the league, they have an excelent young core and a good coaching staff and they have great line play on both sides of the ball. All of those things are part of a winning formula, but they dont tell the entire story.
One major detractor is that the Texans don’t have a single quality win on their schedule. They haven’t played a single team with a winning record and the only real quality team they have played beat them mercilessly. The Texans were exposed in many ways on Sunday, the biggest was their inability to play from behind. The Packers jumped out quickly and built a two touchdown lead in the first half, that was it. Game Over. The Texans never mounted a serious rally and Matt Shaub looked like the middle of the road player he has proven to be over his career.
The Texans are a team that needs an early lead so it can release its run game and its defense can pin its ears back and rush. Let the Texans get a lead of 10 or more and they are almost unbeatable. This is not the team you want to have to mount a comeback against, they are too good as a pass rushing team and to good at eating the clock with their run game. But let them get behind, force them in the same situation they love to force others into, and they become an average team. They simply aren’t built to win with their offense anymore. Matt Shaub isn’t capable of doing it.
There in lies the fundamental difference between the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans. Neither team has what you would call a top 5 QB, but only the Ravens have an offense, centered around their QB, with the weapons to come from behind and to win close games. Flacco has proven consistently throughout his career that he can find a way to win games. Don’t believe me? go watch the Ravens TD drive in the fourth quarter last week. Flacco delivered the ball perfectly to his receivers on every throw and the Ravens marched down the field for the deciding score. He did the same thing against New England a few weeks earlier. He has been doing it for two years. Arizona, Pittsburgh, New England, and even Jacksonville where he led the team to a lead in the fourth quarter despite playing a terrible game up to that point (the team went on to lose but not on a Flacco mistake).
So Are the Texans Over-Rated? Yes and no. They aren’t as good overall as the media and fans has put them up to be over the course of the season. That is just a fact. Teams as good as they were made out to be don’t lose by 18 points at home, they just don’t. But given a lead, the Texans are every bit as good as their 5-0 record indicated. They are one of the best teams I have watched in a while at preserving a lead. Just flawless in that regaurd. That said, I am convinced this isn’t a team that is going to win many (if any) comeback games and I also think they would have a great deal of difficulty winning a game decided in the final minutes. I honestly can’t pick a winner for this game because the Ravens are so hot and cold in the first half. Instead I will make a conditional pick. If the Texans have a halftime lead of 2 or more possesions (i.e at least 10 points) they will win. However, If the Ravens are ahead, or if the game is tied/closer than 7 points, the Ravens will win.