In a season where it has seemed like nothing has gone right for the Houston Texans in terms of health, they just continue to find ways to win games. Be it on the shoulders of their top-ranked defense, or on the feet of their dominant running game and offensive line or even on the poise of a fifth-round rookie quarterback thrust into action, they just find a way to win late in games.
Speaking of the young gunslinger from North Carolina, he looks like a kid waiting to be awoken from a dream. With the post-clinching party that some of the players and fans had a Reliant Stadium after their incredible comeback performance against the Bengals last Sunday, you can tell it still hasn't sunk in for T.J. Yates yet. But who says it has to?
All we hear from his coaches and teammates is how confident and laid back he is, and it has been showing on the field—2-0 as a starter including a crazy two-minute-drill win in his pocket and fans around town are thinking the sky is the limit. But the question still remains, with a playoff spot now locked up, is T.J. Yates the kind of guy who could lead the Texans on a deep playoff run come January? I think so, and I'm going to tell you why.
First off, in winning the AFC South division, the Texans have guaranteed themselves a home playoff game. And if you caught the game against Atlanta two Sundays ago, you know how good of a home-field advantage a rocking Reliant Stadium can be. If the fans are as rowdy, and I have zero doubts that they will be, it's going to be hell for any quarterback for the opposition to come in and be comfortable running his offense.
Next, the Texans still have the top defense in the league. Don't let Wade Phillips taking a two-week leave of absence against the Panthers and Colts fool you; he wouldn't miss a playoff game even if he was having a lobotomy. The defense will be fired up and ready.
Then you got the Texans' deadly one-two punch of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. The two of them have combined for 1,777 yards on the ground as well as another 613 in the passing game. They've also found the end zone 13 total times this season. With a rookie quarterback running the show, it's good to have a check-down option like Arian Foster who has shown that he can take it to the house on a screen on any given play.
Finally, teams still don't think that T.J. Yates can beat them. Since Matt Schaub went down with a season-ending injury, teams have committed to stopping the run and making the Texans backup quarterbacks beat them. And as evidenced this past weekend when Yates threw the ball 44 times, Gary Kubiak is fine with that game plan. Yates has a good arm and once he gets Andre Johnson back as his deep threat, I expect to see him take even more shots down the field.
The thing is, T.J. doesn't know that he isn't supposed to be doing this. As I said earlier, it hasn't really sunk in for him yet I don't think. He's living the dream that every young NFL guy his age that wasn't a highly drafted guy has. There is no reason for him to get rattled because he's in an ideal situation with a team that has a stout defense and an explosive running game.
Lastly, there are no dominant teams in the AFC this year. Sure, the Steelers, Patriots, Ravens and Texans all have the same record, but none of those teams are just plowing through the competition. The Patriots defense looks so bad that they let Rex Grossman look like there were two Tom Bradys playing in the game. The Ravens have a quarterback who may not be as good as T.J. Yates and have shown that they can lose any given week to any opponent. The Steelers are pretty good, but the Texans have proven already that they can beat them playing Pittsburgh-style football.
Oh, and uh, I'm not worried about the Broncos.
In the end, do I think the Texans could make a miracle run at the title? Probably not. But do I think that will be T.J. Yates' fault? Not even close.
Just remember this mantra: Why not T.J. Yates?