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The time is now: C.J. Stroud, Texans control playoff destiny heading into prime time rumble

The Time Is Now - Dalton

Before the 2023 regular season began, there was a sentiment with many that the Texans would be a little better this year, but in playoff contention in the seasons to follow.

After all, they won just three games in 2022 and had a rookie head coach, rookie offensive coordinator and rookie quarterback running the show.

Forget that.

The Texans believe their time is now.

With a 9-7 record, the team flies to Indianapolis on Friday afternoon for a Saturday night showdown against the 9-7 Colts. The winner advances to the playoffs, and the loser's season is finished. A win, coupled with a Jaguars loss gives the victor the AFC South crown.

The Houston Texans held practice on Wednesday, January 3, 2024 in preparation for the regular season finale against the Indianapolis Colts.

Houston's never been in this spot in a regular season finale, and despite the guarantee of a winning record no matter the outcome, Head Coach DeMeco Ryans and company aren't satisfied.

"As our guys said, we didn't come this far just to get this far," Ryans said. "We have a lot to still play for that's ahead of us."

Quarterback C.J. Stroud, who was the second overall pick in April's NFL Draft, played beyond his years and turned in a season that will likely earn him the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Stroud, who's tossed 21 touchdowns to just five interceptions, and has a 99.0 passer rating, was one of six Texans who were selected as Pro Bowl alternates on Wednesday.

Left tackle Laremy Tunsil was tabbed for his fourth Pro Bowl on Wednesday. Fullback Andrew Beck was named an alternate, and the other five have less than five years experience apiece in Stroud, wide receiver Nico Collins, cornerback Derek Stingley, Jr. and defensive ends Jonathan Greenard and Will Anderson, Jr.

Pro Bowl weekend is early February. But Stroud would much rather miss those festivities and instead be preparing for the game to be played the following week in Las Vegas: the Super Bowl.

"The time is now," Stroud said. "It's not next year. It's not the year after that. It's right now. We have the opportunity to control our own destiny. I'm excited to do that."

For Stroud and company to make that a reality, they must first take care of the Colts. A victory Saturday night means the postseason is a reality. If the Jaguars were to also triumph, Houston would begin it's playoff march in either Kansas City or Buffalo next weekend.

The return of the young signal-caller after missing two weeks with a concussion brought a positive lift to the locker room and the field last week, and Houston's a confident bunch heading north to face an AFC South foe.

Buckle up, because the ride might just be starting for the Texans.