EDITOR'S NOTE:Texans fan Alan J. Burge will be writing a "Voice of the Fan" column throughout the 2004 season. His latest installment is below. Alan's views do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.
No letting up now
So here we are, the last day of 2004 and the final weekend of the NFL regular season. It's a bittersweet time for NFL fans whose teams are not going to the playoffs. For some, like Browns fans, the season can't get over quick enough. For others, like most Texans fans, there will be a feeling of unfinished business and anticipation going into next season, especially if this winning streak extends to three.
The anticipation of finishing the season at 8-8 and becoming a "non-losing" team for the first time in history is exciting for this third-year team and it makes this game significant regardless of what CBS and/or KENS-TV in San Antonio might think. Did I mention the fact that a Texans win and a Jags loss will give the Texans second place in the AFC South?
Back to the game, there's a little bit of good news-bad news heading into Sunday's clash with the Dawgs.
The good news is that J.J. Moses is scheduled to return to action. I don't know about you but last week it got to the point that I couldn't watch as Aaron Glenn and Jabar Gaffney made every Jags punt a crapshoot. It makes you appreciate our "sure hands guy" doesn't it?
The bad news is that Antwan Peek, who has been one of the most dominating players on defense in the past few weeks, injured his shoulder and is done for the year. Coach Dom Capers said this week that Charlie Anderson, Quincy Monk and D.D. Acholonu could see playing time to replace Peek in third-down pass rushing situations so watch for No. 50, 57 or 59 coming off the right side on Sunday.
I hope our players are treating this like a division game because one of the worst things anyone could do is underestimate an opponent. This is still the NFL and anything can happen. Ask New England about Miami.
The Browns offense has been stuck in neutral the past few weeks with third stringer Luke McCown starting at quarterback but all reports out of Cleveland indicate that Kelly Holcomb will start against the Texans on Sunday.
In Holcomb's last start, he was 30 for 39 (77 percent) for 413 yards and 5 TDs against the (now) 7-8 Bengals. The Browns put up 48 points that day but their defense didn't show up and the Bengals racked up 58 points of their own in what ended up being Butch Davis' last stand.
One of Holcomb's primary targets on Sunday will be receiver Antonio Bryant who said his team hasn't quit. "Nobody quits in this league," Bryant said in the team conference call this week. "Everybody is going to play the last game as though it was the first game because that's how important this game is."
I tend to agree with Bryant's comments. The Browns are rebuilding and there are players up and down their roster who will be trying to win jobs next season. I have a feeling we will get their best effort. This is a Browns team that lost by only three points to the Eagles (with TO) and the Jets so they aren't as hapless as their record indicates.
The key to this game will be to get up on the Browns early and not even give them a chance to think they can win the game. I like our chances for another convincing win if the Texans continue to play the type of defense they have the past few weeks. Whatever the Texans do, they can't let the Browns hang around going into the fourth quarter. The crowd needs to be as hostile as if we were playing the Titans, Jags or Colts. One encouraging note for the defense is that Browns quarterbacks have been sacked a lot this year, almost as much as our own.
It's been 11 years since Houston had a NFL team in the playoffs and everyone is getting anxious for a return. Based on the team's progress over its first three seasons I think it's now reasonable to expect that at this point next season the Texans should be in the same position that Denver and Buffalo are in now. Let's go out with a bang and start looking forward to next season. Now, if we could only figure out how to beat Indy.
- More Reliant turf woes. I was really disappointed again to see the condition of the field while watching the Colorado-UTEP game. Colorado head coach Gary Barnett called the surface "sloppy." This is something that needs to be addressed (again) in the off-season. Maybe more spare pallets on hand and more frequent change-outs is the answer.
- Major kudos to all the Texans tailgaters who help make the Texans gameday experience one of the best in the NFL. For anyone who hasn't experienced the pre-game activities in the Blue, Orange, or Yellow lots around Reliant, I highly suggest coming out early to walk around and enjoy the tastes, sights and sounds.
- Okay, let's see… last weekend, record snowfall - this weekend running around in shorts. Must be winter in Houston.
- And last but not least, thanks to all of you who have emailed during the season. I enjoy receiving your feedback and have enjoyed doing this feature.
You can email the "Voice of the Fan" at: email@example.com