Brian Cushing of the Houston Texans reportedly tore his ACL.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:
Brutal loss for the #Texans defense. Source confirms that LB Brian Cushing has a torn ACL, as feared. You can make up for it, but it's hard— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 9, 2012
Now for the million-dollar question: Does this ruin Houston's odds to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy?
Although Cushing's injury doesn't help, the Texans are still in good shape overall to repeat in the AFC South and make a Super Bowl run. Why Houston will remain on track is what we look at next.
Mario Williams only played five games last season. In addition, quarterback Matt Schaub was out in mid November.
Include Andre Johnson not being completely healthy throughout all of 2011 and the Texans should not have made the postseason a year ago. Instead, Gary Kubiak's team won the division, smashed the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Wild Card and nearly upset the Baltimore Ravens a week later.
Aside from Cushing's injury, Houston is a lot healthier by comparison to last season and the Texans have proven to be a legit AFC contender. As a team with increased expectations and confidence, Houston won't be hit too hard by Cushing's injury.
They've been through a similar situation before and still got the job done regardless.
Cushing aside, the Texans simply have way too many playmakers on defense.
J.J. Watt is on pace for 27 sacks, 25 defended passes and 64 tackles thanks to his fast start.
And although those final numbers are unlikely, the man knows how to wreck havoc in the backfield and anywhere else along the line of scrimmage.
Complementing Watt are other stellar front seven players such as Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin. These guys combined for 17.5 sacks and 92 tackles last season. Their numbers don't look as appealing in 2012, but that's mostly due to Watt's dominance up front.
The Texans secondary can suffocate anyone's passing game a few ways. Whether it's man, zone or a mix with Cover 1 and Cover 3, defenders such as Danieal Manning, Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson simply lock it down.
All three have accounted for 13 defended passes, five picks and 57 tackles through five games. Each possess excellent instincts to break on the ball, bait quarterbacks into making ill-advised throws and help with edge run support.
This is what makes Wade Phillips' defense so dominant. Anyone who contributes is a reliable tackler, run defender and can break up passes. With Watt being the sack-master, his presence only frees up other blitzers because he can draw a double-team on every snap.
Who wins the AFC title?
The offense is where Houston really controls games.
The defense is there to cause turnovers, force punts and win the field position battle. Arian Foster and Co. are one of the most efficient offenses around, as the Texans can beat anyone by running or throwing.
Foster is obviously one of the NFL's best and most complete ball-carriers.
Schaub has proven to be an above average signal-caller who does more than just manage games. His accuracy and ability to spread the field is what widens zone defenses, and he's calm in the pocket as well.
Include a complete tight end like Owen Daniels and Houston basically has six stud run-blockers. Led by center Chris Myers, the Texans have one of the quickest and technically sound offensive lines in pro football.
Because of that, Houston can run the ball all day to control the clock and rest its defense. This only makes play-action pass more dangerous and Andre Johnson is still among the elite receivers around.
Cushing's impact for being one guy certainly was key for Houston. However, this team is so proficient on either side of the line that his absence won't have too damaging of an effect.
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