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"Understanding the Assignment": Texans in the playoff hunt | Texans vs. Broncos


Sheldon Rankins has played in five playoff games in his career. He has the experience of being on a team that makes that heralded run to the playoffs.

Now, in Houston, the NFL veteran isn't shying away from the playoff talk that has started around the 7-5 Texans following a 22-17 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday at NRG Stadium.

Houston is in line for an AFC Wild Card spot.

"As a guy whose been around, you don't shy away from that," Rankins said. "You don't try to walk around on eggshells like it's not there. Like it's some big secret. Everybody's got a TV, everybody has some way, shape or form to see who's in the hunt. Who has a shot. It's not a big secret.

"I think it's a mix of understanding where we're trying to go but also understanding none of that is possible if we don't show up and play to our abilities every week."

The Texans have won four of their last five games and have five games remaining on the schedule in the regular season with a road trip to play the Jets on the road Sunday up next.

"It's all about playing great ball in November-December. Right now we're playing meaningful games," Texans safety Jimmie Ward, who played in the NFC Championship game each of the last two seasons with the 49ers, said. "These are playoff games right here. Everybody's trying to fight to get into the big dance. I feel like each week we're getting better."

For some of the younger guys, like Derek Stingley Jr., who have never been to the playoffs or been a part of a playoff team it's a good feeling to be playing this late and still in the playoff hunt.

But this feeling, the seven wins, and being in the playoff hunt isn't a surprise to the second-year player.

"I've never been a part of something like this," Stingley said. "During training camp and even during OTAs, it was something we all felt in the whole building. It's just been different. We just knew we were going to be able to do something. We still have a ways to go and still have things to clean up."

One of the key players of this recent run has been Texans receiver Nico Collins.

On Sunday, Collins topped a new career high in receiving yards, registering 191 and a score against the Broncos. His previous career high was 168 earlier this season and the new mark puts him at 991 yards for the season. Collins has four 100-yard receiving performances this season for the Texans.

And he knows what they need to do to keep the train rolling towards a playoff berth.

"Keep winning, keep going," Collins said. "It's there, it's knocking on the door. Around this time we need to continue being ourselves, continue to grind, and continue to put the extra work in. Around this time is when it all matters. All the grind and work we've been putting in, offseason and camp, it's for a situation like this."

On the other end of those stats has been rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud, who passed for another 274 yards and a score on Sunday.

"We're taking steps in certain areas that we needed to and we just have to keep it going," Stroud said. "It's hard to win after Thanksgiving. It's playoff football, the term has already started. So, we just have to keep it going and stack these wins."

The one direction that Texans Head Coach DeMeco Ryans doesn't like to look is backwards. Ryans doesn't talk about the past teams to have played in NRG Stadium.

It is about the current group. The one that is 7-5 overall and in the hunt for an AFC Wild Card as the calendar officially turns to December.

"This is 2023, this is our team, this is our brand of football," Ryans said. "Our guys are a resilient group of men. They show up every single week, they put the work in every week and they show up on Sundays and they execute and they play for each other. That's all I ask for and our guys continue to get better."

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