Houston Texans Progress Report: Where Things Stand Heading into Week 15

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistDecember 12, 2012

Joseph and Jackson have to step it up against top offenses.
Joseph and Jackson have to step it up against top offenses.Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans are 11-2 and in first place in the AFC South. They also currently hold the top seed in the AFC.

In Week 15, the Texans host the Indianapolis Colts at Reliant Stadium.

The Texans rank 12th on offense, third on defense and eight overall in DVOA.

Primary Talking Point for Week 15

Was the 42-14 embarrassment a sign or an aberration?

If it was a blip on the radar soon to be forgotten, the Texans should cruise into the postseason and continue their march to New Orleans.

If it revealed a serious crack in the armor, the franchise could find that it missed its window for a championship.

There's no way to get a definitive answer, and in all likelihood, Houston will come out strong against the Colts and win comfortably.

While that will likely calm any panic, until the Texans shut down an elite offense, there will continue to be questions about whether or not they can.

At any rate, their position as favorites in the AFC has been vacated.

New England is now the team to beat.

Injury Update

Gary Kubiak addressed the media yesterday and affirmed Derek Newton is close to returning.

He’s doing good. Until he’s back on the field I’m not ready to tell you he will be ready to play. I think there’s a process that he’s got to go through this week. But he did work today and worked well.

Dobbins and Sharpton came out of the game a little banged up. Other than that, that’s the good thing, we didn’t take any steps backwards with anybody physically, so we should be okay.


Playoff Outlook

The Texans need a win to clinch the AFC South. Assuming they get that win against an overmatched Colts team, they'll be able to focus on desired seeding for the playoffs.

The AFC has separated out into three elite teams and a mish mash of poor ones.

The ideal final seeding for the Texans would be:

1. Houston

2. Denver

3. New England

4. Baltimore

The Texans would then likely face the Ravens or a wild-card team in the first round. The Patriots would have to play twice, and hopefully lose along the way.

Houston would also not have to face both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but instead would get a very average Ravens team they've already curb-stomped once this season.

Feel Good Stat of the Week

If you are looking for the silver lining in the ugly loss to the Patriots, there is something to feel good about.

The Texans moved the ball plenty against the Pats.

They had first-half drives of 59 and 56 yards that netted no points.

While the game eventually spiraled out of control, the first half could have gone quite differently. The Schaub interception and failed fourth-down conversion could easily have resulted in points that could have altered the way the rest of the game went.

As bad as things were for Houston, it's not hard to imagine an alternate universe where the outcome was not nearly as one-sided.

Troubling Stat of the Week

The Texans D may be third in DVOA, but there's some indication that even with the defensive adjustment, their ranking may be slightly mythical.

Houston has faced the 27th toughest defensive schedule, but against top 10 offenses, they've been a mess.

The Texans have played the Patriots (first), Broncos (third), Packers (fourth) and Lions (seventh).

Against those four teams, they've allowed 140 points (35 ppg).

They've had seven games against the 10 worst offenses in the league. They've allowed an average of 14.4 ppg in those contests.

Whether or not the Texans can actually stop a quality offense is very much in doubt.

Overall Trend: Falling

At this point it's impossible to argue the Texans are playing their best football.

While the injuries they've suffered haven't been as high profile as they were in 2011, there's no question that the Texans' depth is being tested.

The odds are still very good that they'll land a first-round bye, and it would be a mild surprise if they don't wind up with the top seed in the playoffs.

Still, visits by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the postseason don't bode well for Houston.

The Texans have to find a way to get Johnathan Joseph healthy. Yes, he played against New England, but it's obvious from watching him that he's not 100 percent.

Until he gets right, Houston is going to be vulnerable to the pass, and that is not a formula that wins in January.

Quotes courtesy of the Houston Texans PR department via press release.


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