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Houston Texans

Vandermeer's View: A win, and more work to be done

The most important football lies ahead. But let's take a deep breath and reflect on this team that bounced back big from 0-3 to capture the AFC South.

This is not the AFC South of a few years ago, that was winnable with a 9-7 record. This version will have two playoff teams for the second consecutive year. This version has three winning teams. And the last place team beat the Patriots, Colts and defeated the Dolphins on the road.

Losing the first three games in the campaign was hard enough. But eventually the Texans had to face a string of games with their starting quarterback so banged up, he was medically unable to fly.

They won anyway. In fact, they put together a franchise record nine-game winning streak that vaulted them to the top of the division.

They also lost their founder and owner along the way. They honored him with an impressive Monday Night victory over their most natural rival.

They racked up the second most wins in their history and enter the post season with as good a chance as any team in the AFC to make a run for Atlanta. They've registered five playoff appearances in the last eight years. And six winning seasons during that time. Only a handful of clubs can make such a claim.

The division-clincher was a defensive masterpiece. A 20-3 victory of the Jaguars sealed the AFC South title for the third time in the last four years.

Deshaun Watson became the first Texans quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards since Matt Schaub in 2012. His playmaking ability has been a huge factor in giving Houston an opportunity to do damage in the playoffs.

J.J. Watt came back this year and let the world know that he's still performing as one of the best defensive players in the history of the league. To get 16 sacks after missing the bulk of back to back seasons with catastrophic injuries is almost unthinkable.

After the injury parade in 2017, in which the Texans used a league record 78 players, they were much healthier this season. No small part of the credit should go to Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien transforming the team's strength and conditioning and nutritional programs.

Now comes the post season. It's a brand new day and Houston brings an outstanding quarterback, the league's best receiver, dynamic pass rushers and great team chemistry to the party.

That's not to say everything is sunshine and roses. The Texans have to be at their very best in all phases once the bell rings in January. O'Brien and the coaches know they need to keep getting better with the ground game and pass defense.

But they have a shot to advance in the win-or-else part of the season. It's a chance they won't take lightly. And we'll all be here to watch the action.

Check out the best photos from the Week 17 match-up with the Texans and Jaguars.

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