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The 8-8 debate

First things first – wins are better than losses, any day, any way.

I didn't know what to expect heading out to the stadium yesterday with the Texans coming off yet another shellacking at the hands of Peyton Manning, and the rough and tough Jags coming to town.

We read all week how the Jags were going to rest key players, but there was still plenty of concern because this 11-4 (now 11-5) Jags team might be their best since Mark Brunell was pitching balls to Jimmy Smith.

One thing that was lost in those headlines was that the Texans had been 'resting' key players all season.

With starters Steve McKinney, Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, Ahman Green, Fred Weary, Anthony Weaver, Dunta Robinson and Glenn Earl missing all or a significant portion of the season along with key backups Jerome Mathis, Shawn Barber, Chris White, Jason Simmons and rookie draft choice Brandon Harrison, I don't want to hear anyone play the 'we're playing backups' card.

All things considered, coach Kubiak and the players should be congratulated for finishing 8-8. It provides a sound basis for optimism heading into the offseason.

It also makes fans and players regret the ones that got away - especially the one in Atlanta.

But then for every win we should have had, there are others like Carolina, Denver and New Orleans that looked like L's when we were all looking at the schedule before the season started.

Which brings me to my preseason prediction of 8-8.

I thought a healthy Texans team would go 8-8 this year. That would reflect a two-game improvement over last year and set a franchise record for wins. What we got was a quick 2-0 out of the gate, followed by a rash of injuries and an offense that turned into a turnover waiting to happen.

But the team that was held together with bubble gum and duct tape got Andre Johnson back healthy and along with performances by Pro Bowler Demeco Ryans and several backup players, posted a 5-3 record in the second half of the season along with a strong 3-1 finish.

I'll give them a 'B' for above average – all things considered.

But what I'm not doing this morning is planning a parade down my street just because the team finally finished .500.

In the NFL, .500 is average. It usually means you are on the outside looking in when it comes to playoffs – and that's what really matters and what everyone wants.

So while 8-8 might feel really good, it's only the first step in what's become a really long journey back to respectability for Houston's NFL team.

I can't wait until the day, hopefully in December 2008, when the Texans clinch a playoff berth at home in front of a raucous crowd at Reliant.

I can't wait until the day when the Texans become a factor in the playoffs.

I can't wait until the day when the Texans gain some form of home field advantage in the playoffs.

I can't wait until the day when the Texans beat Peyton Manning at Indy and consider a 4-2 record in the AFC South a bad thing.

Those are a few of the steps still to climb and it doesn't take much reading between the lines to know that's exactly what coach Kubiak is trying to get across to the players.

I feel for guys like Chester Pitts, who I listened to on the radio during my drive home after the game. Chester's attitude was something to the effect that "I guess I should feel good" (by finishing 8-8) but you can readily sense the bitter-sweetness in his voice that it took so long to get to that point.

But Texans fans can say one thing for the first time – they are not losers.

Extras:

  • The good news: The Texans were 6-2 at home this season – much to the delight of the home crowd. The bad news: That pesky 1-5 record in division. If the Texans can figure out a way to go 3-3 in division, they are likely in the playoffs. Although the year the Texans went 7-9 in 2004, they were 4-2 in the division, so there goes that theory.
  • By the way, what was the deal with the crowd yesterday? It was very subdued, except during the aftermath of the André Davis show. Was it the meaningless game thing or was it due to ticket holders giving away their tickets to others who don't normally go to games? I looked around my section and saw a lot of new faces. I'm guessing it was a combination of both, but the noise usually heard on 3rd downs was missing amid the sea of cotton candy and foot long hot dogs. And the wave.
  • Memo to the South end zone. The wave went out of style somewhere around the time Earl Campbell retired. The reason why a lot of people don't participate is because they are too interested in what's going on (on the field) and not in the stands.
  • The young boy who did the call of the game was outstanding. Nothing but pure excitement (and a good call for a 10-year old) as he called one of Davis' two returns. That feature is usually hard to watch, but yesterday's was a winner – as was the kiss cam when they showed the two Jags players.
  • The Texans have one of the most outstanding tailgating experiences in the NFL. Hopefully, it won't be ruined by everyone trying to break the sound barrier with their mammoth stereo systems now infiltrating every corner of every lot. Memo to DJ wannabe's: Some of us don't want to hear your music, so instead of pointing your 140 dB party toward us, point the speakers back at yourself so you can get the full effect and enjoyment.
  • This will be my 126th and final article on HoustonTexans.com. I'd like to thank Nick, Carter (wherever you are), and the Texans for allowing me to share my thoughts and opinions here for the past several years. It's been an honor and a lot of fun. As Leon Hale say's "I'll see you on down the road." Have a happy, safe and prosperous New Year and Go Texans!

    You can contact Alan Burge at: ajtexans@yahoo.com


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