It all comes down to this. A game against Jacksonville that will determine whether the Texans win the AFC South or not.
The Texans are already in the playoffs. That's a nice little insurance policy. There's no doubt, however, that playing at home is preferable. A win leaves the door open for a bye, if the Texans get some help in Foxborough and/or other places. A loss puts them on the road, possibly at (gulp) Indianapolis.
The only thing the Texans have control over is playing a team that is perplexing and far more dangerous than their record would indicate. Let's put it this way. The Jags have won two of their last four games. And in those two wins, they've held the opponents to one touchdown, total.
They are downright frightening on defense. They blanked Indy 6-0 a week before the Colts came here and put up 24 points, behind 399 passing yards, and stopped the Texans nine-game winning streak.
Last week, playing a Miami team that was still alive for the postseason, they put up a wall and held the Dolphins to seven points, in South Florida. Oh, and they scored on defense, with a Telvin Smith pick six.
Speaking of scoring in different ways, a week before that, Dede Westbrook took a punt to the house. And last week, he had a return for 44 yards to set up outstanding field position.
Before you're done eye-rolling at me with my 'Beware-of-the-Jags' rant, let me remind you that Blake Bortles is back at the helm. And although he has not looked good this year, it was one short season ago that he helped sweep the Texans with four TDs and no picks in the two 2017 matchups.
This is a last-house-on-the-left game for Bortles. His career future is on the line. That's why the Texans need to be ready for him to do one of the things he does best – run.
In the 2014 season finale, here, the Texans were hanging onto to a six point lead, trying to lock up a winning season. Bortles had the ball at the Jaguar 15-yard line. He eventually converted a fourth and 10 play to future Texan (and now, Texans Radio postgame co-host) Cecil Shorts III.
Then, he had the audacity to run 34 yards to set up a stress-filled first and goal in the final moments. Houston held on but it showed you how dangerous Bortles can be when he's 'on.'
Okay, now that we've really got your attention, this game is really about playing clean. Yes, the Jags have the tools to slow down Houston. But as long as the Texans continue to avoid turnovers and don't spring any leaks on special teams, they should have a good chance at feeling good at the end of the day.
Last week is ancient history. The Texans have a 60 minute final exam to earn the right to host at least one playoff game. It's an opportunity they've worked hard to get. Now they must complete the task.
The Houston Texans roster in photos. (Updated 3/1/2021)