The Houston Texans defense took a big hit on Tuesday with the news that star linebacker Brian Cushing would miss the rest of the season with a knee injury (via Adam Schefter of ESPN), but this injury won't prevent the team from having a great chance to make the Super Bowl.
Cushing is still confident that his team can get to the Super Bowl without him, posting the following message on his Facebook page on Wednesday:
Trust me when I say that I'll be back better than ever next year; but in the meantime, I want to thank my teammates, coaches, and you fans for all the amazing love and support.
Oh, and WE are STILL winning THIS year's Super Bowl.
The Texans have enough talent to be an elite defensive team without Cushing, and a lot of the team's players know what it's like to lose a defensive star because Mario Williams (now with the Buffalo Bills) missed a lot of games over the last two years due to injury, and Houston still played well.
Going into Week 6, the Texans are 5-0, and their defense ranks fourth against the pass and ninth against the run. Cushing leads the Texans with 29 tackles, but he is one of six players on the Houston defense with 19 or more tackles.
Houston has enough depth on defense to overcome Cushing's loss. Its passing defense was certainly helped by Cushing's impressive play, but his loss won't cause the Texans pass defense from worsening that much, if at all.
Houston ranks tied for fifth in the NFL in interceptions, thanks to an elite cornerback in Johnathan Joseph and a rising star at the position in Kareem Jackson, who is tied for third in the NFL with three interceptions.
Star defensive end J.J. Watt has been phenomenal this season as a run stopper and a pass-rusher, and he will likely play an even bigger part of the defense with Cushing out for the year. Watt leads the Texans and is second in the NFL with 7.5 sacks thus far.
When you look at the competition the Texans have for the AFC title this year, their two toughest opponents will be the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens. Neither team has a great defense, and since Houston has a great offense, it is definitely capable of winning a shootout in the playoffs.
If the Texans can secure home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs, they will have a great shot at beating the Patriots or the Ravens en route to the Super Bowl.
Cushing's injury is going to have an impact on the Texans defense because he is a great player, but it's not something that will prevent Houston from having the best chance to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl XLVII.