All things considered, Week 17 treated the Houston Texans well. Even though the Texans lost their final regular season game and missed out on a chance to finish 6-0 in the division for the first time in franchise history, there is a lot to be happy about in Houston.
Lots of people may hit the panic button about how quarterback Tom Savage suffered a concussion in the second quarter on Sunday, but it’s not as much of a concern as you may think. Savage didn’t play well in his second start of his career, completing only five passes for 25 yards before he left the game. To add insult to injury, with 10:04 left to go in the first quarter, Savage lost a fumble on a sack, which was recovered in the end zone for a Titans score.
Directly after Savage went down, Brock Osweiler made his return, which surprisingly provided a spark for Houston’s offense. In relief of Savage, Osweiler looked sharp, completing 21 passes for 253 yards while scoring two total touchdowns. Not only did Osweiler seem to develop some much-needed chemistry with his receiving corps, he also didn’t commit any turnovers, which is something he has struggled with throughout the 2016 season.
If Savage isn’t ready to go on Saturday, at least Osweiler has some momentum going into the postseason, which is something most people didn’t see happening. Osweiler played well despite little help from his offensive line, which has been awful in the pass-blocking department the entire season and allowed Tennessee to collect four sacks on Sunday.
Although many key starters were deactivated shortly before the game began, the Texans’ No. 1 ranked defense held DeMarco Murray, who finished the 2016 season third in rushing yards with 1,287, to a season-low 22 yards. Quintin Demps, who is Houston’s interception leader (six) in 2016, added to his turnover tally by registering a pick in his fourth-straight game. As long as the Texans can shut down the run game and generate turnovers, their offense doesn’t need to play hero in order for Houston to win.
If a dominant performance by the front seven and an improvement in their 29th ranked passing attack wasn’t enough to excite Houston, than the results of the Chiefs-Chargers and Raiders-Broncos games were. The opponent the Texans have the best chance to beat is indeed the Derek Carr-less Raiders.
Following expectations, Kansas City took care of business in San Diego and put the Chargers away by a score of 37-27. This meant Oakland would need to beat (or tie) Denver to win the AFC West and avoid falling to the No. 5 seed. Without the services of Carr, this proved to be a task the Raiders couldn’t accomplish.
When Oakland took on a Broncos team that had nothing to play for but pride, they looked like a unit who lost their identity, suffering a 24-6 beatdown after being down 24-0 at one point in the third quarter. Not only did backup quarterback Matt McGloin struggle, he also injured his shoulder, meaning rookie quarterback Connor Cook may have to make his first career start on the road in the postseason with a 26th ranked defense that won’t give him much help.
This is the best scenario Houston could’ve drawn up for the postseason. The Texans’ defense, which has done a great job at collecting sacks and interceptions lately, should make life miserable for an inexperienced backup quarterback. However, their offense, which has (what appears to be) an improved passing game and a punishing ground game, will catch a break by facing a below-average Raiders defense.
The Texans didn’t win the battle on Sunday, and finished 9-7 for the third-straight season, but (with some help from the football Gods) they won the war, and will now face a suddenly free-falling team at NRG Stadium in the Wild Card round.