The Houston Texans defeated the Miami Dolphins 42-23 on Thursday night at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Deshaun Watson completed 16 of 20 passes for 239 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Texans, with DeAndre Hopkins (six catches for 82 yards, two TDs) and Will Fuller V (five receptions for 124 yards and one score) also contributing to the victory.
Dolphins quarterback Brock Osweiler had 241 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. Miami receiver Danny Amendola also threw a 28-yard touchdown and caught five passes for 43 yards, and DeVante Parker put up 134 yards on six receptions.
Texans Team to Beat in AFC South
The Jacksonville Jaguars are the reigning AFC South champs and are coming off an AFC Championship Game appearance, but the division runs through Houston this year.
Early on, that didn't appear to be the case, as Houston failed to win a game through the first three weeks. However, a five-game winning streak puts the momentum in the Texans' favor—and they are only getting started.
Now that Watson's knee injury is a thing of the past and Hopkins (53 catches for 789 yards and six touchdowns this season) is back to putting up ridiculous numbers, the offense is hitting its stride.
Houston averaged just 19.7 points through the first three weeks but has put up 27.6 per game over the last five.
But the Texans aren't a one-dimensional team. They can bring the heat on defense as well.
J.J. Watt (8.0 sacks) and Jadeveon Clowney (4.5 sacks) have formed a dynamic pass-rushing duo up front. Meanwhile, the defense entered Thursday's game ranked seventh in the NFL with 13 forced turnovers. Offseason acquisition Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson lead the team with two interceptions apiece.
Houston is 5-3 and owns a 1.5-game lead over both Jacksonville and the Tennessee Titans. The Texans hold the tiebreaker over the Jaguars thanks to a 20-7 victory last week but do not hold the same advantage over the Titans after losing their Week 2 meeting.
While the Texans are hot, both Jacksonville and Tennessee are trending in the opposite direction, as both clubs are riding three-game losing streaks.
There is still a long way to go in the regular season, but the Texans are the team to beat in the AFC South.
NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award Is J.J. Watt's to Lose
Watt already has three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards—and he could add a fourth by year's end.
Entering this season, Watt's name was being floated for NFL Comeback Player of the Year after back and leg injuries limited him to eight games over the past two years. However, Watt made it clear to NBC Sports' Peter King during the offseason that he had his sights set on a fourth DPOY award.
Any questions as to whether he could regain his pre-injury form were quickly put to rest.
In posting four tackles (two for loss) and one sack Thursday, Watt continued his bounce-back campaign.
He's tied for the league lead in sacks and forced fumbles (four). Not bad for a player who has been sidelined for most of the past two years.
Watt was held without a sack in his first two games, but he has been on a tear since. He has at least one sack in five of his last six contests, quickly putting himself among the favorites for individual honors.
If he keeps up his pace, it would mark his fifth double-digit sack performance. The only time he hasn't reached that plateau when healthy was his rookie season in 2011.
To put it simply: Watt is back.
Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald could have a case for the award, especially if his team continues to pile up wins, and don't forget about Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack. But if Watt can continue to play the way he has in recent weeks and lead his team to the playoffs, the voters will have a tough time ignoring him.
Dolphins Prove They're Playoff Pretenders Again
Miami parted ways with the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey, among others, during the offseason. They did, however, add veterans Frank Gore and Danny Amendola while also having quarterback Ryan Tannehill return from a significant knee injury.
Then, the Dolphins caught the football world's attention by seizing a 3-0 start. That hot beginning had many wondering if this team was for real.
A month later, it's clear the Fins are pretenders.
Miami narrowly edged Tennessee, the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders to open the season, with each game decided by one possession. A 38-7 loss to the New England Patriots in Week 4 gave the Dolphins a dose of reality, and they have since lost three of their past four games, with each loss coming by double digits.
The combined record of the four opponents they've beaten is 10-16. Their largest margin of victory? Eight points—with a 6.5-point average margin of victory. Meanwhile, they have yet to beat a team that currently owns a winning record. Their four losses have come by an average of 17.8 points.
It doesn't help Miami's cause that Tannehill has been sidelined since Week 5 with a shoulder injury and receiver Kenny Stills didn't play against Houston because of a groin injury. But in the NFL, it's a "next man up" philosophy.
Running back Kenyan Drake (58 rushing yards, 37 receiving yards and two touchdowns) continues to put up strong numbers, but it has to be a team effort.
The Dolphins are just two years removed from a 10-6 season that included a playoff appearance. It appears New England is well on its way to its 16th AFC East crown in the past 18 seasons, meaning Miami will have to compete for a wild card. The Los Angeles Chargers (5-2) hold the top wild-card spot, and the Dolphins are one of three teams in the AFC wild-card race with four victories.
Miami's remaining schedule is far from favorable. Games with the Green Bay Packers (away), the Patriots, the Minnesota Vikings (away) and the Jaguars remain.
Adam Gase's squad made noise early this season, but it doesn't have the look of a playoff team any longer.
Houston (5-3) will be back in action Nov. 4 when it hits the road for a game against the Denver Broncos, while Miami (4-4) will return home to host the New York Jets in Week 9.