NFL

Texans Look To Gain Respect On Monday Night Football

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There is a certain amount of extra juice in a matchup with a first place football team, especially this late in the season.

Monday Night Football features a matchup of two first place teams with the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders, but everyone only seems to be talking about the Raiders as a legitimate contender.

The Texans may be a first place team, just without the respect that comes with it.

Their 6-3 record is certainly respectable, but they’ve won just one game away from the great state of Texas, and that came last week in Jacksonville, a team who hasn’t scored a home victory in nearly a full year.

“It’s tough,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said about playing well on the road.  “We would say we played New England, played Minnesota, played Denver- tough environments and they got ahead of us early, 10-0, 14-0.  “And I think when that happens, especially Minnesota and New England, when that happens to you on the road that is very difficult to come back from.  “I thought we played better against Denver.  Obviously not good enough, but I thought it was better.”

The reason why nobody believes in the Texans is mainly due to their quarterback situation and injury situation.  Houston is missing the best defensive player in the NFL in defensive end J.J. Watt, who will likely be out for the rest of the season.

The team signed former Denver Broncos backup quarterback Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million deal and he’s been disappointing at best.  In last week’s win over Jacksonville, he threw for just 99 yards and the team often ran the football on third-and-long situations.

“I think there has been improvement with the whole offense and I think that includes Brock,” O’Brien said to reporters. “I think that we have shown flashes of being the type of offense that we want to be, but it clearly is not enough and none of us are happy where we are offensively.  I think that Brock has done a really good job of coming in here and really pouring himself into learning our offense and I think that hopefully over the second half of the season you’ll see our offense get better.”

Some would question what Houston’s win-loss record would be if they played in the AFC West, NFC East or really any other division.  It probably wouldn’t be as good, but the truth is that it’s completely irrelevant.  The Texans have beaten six of the nine opponents that they’ve faced so far this year.  They can’t help which opponents show up on their schedule.

With that said, tonight’s game in front of a national television audience will give Houston a chance to redeem themselves after the horrific showing earlier this season in New England when they were blanked, 27-0 by a third-string quarterback.

A win tonight wouldn’t exorcise all of the demons, but it would make a huge difference in terms of internal confidence when playing an elite opponent.

Do we know if Oakland is elite?  Not yet, but we are aware of an elite player that the Texans offense has to monitor in linebacker Khalil Mack.  Mack is the closest thing to Denver’s Von Miller and Osweiler is extremely familiar with both, playing for Denver the first four years of his career and against Mack last season.

“You know, any time you play against a player like Khalil Mack, you need to respect what he brings to the table and you need to have answers for what he brings to the table,” Osweiler said.

“We’re very fortunate to have a phenomenal offensive coaching staff here, led by (offensive coordinator George) Godsey and Coach O’Brien. I’m sure they’ll have answers for him. But without a question, we are well aware of what Khalil Mack’s capable of doing — obviously I experienced it firsthand last year — and we will have answers for him.”

The Texans appear to be in that state of purgatory, similar to a No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the NBA Playoffs.  They’re pretty good, they have a few pieces to build around, but nobody really knows if Bill O’Brien is the right coach to take them where they need to go or if they’ll ever be able to beat the best teams in the league.  Still, their roster is good enough that they will win just enough games to not find a better quarterback in the draft and remain in this type of purgatory.

If you need a current example, see Bengals, Cincinnati.

It’s unlikely that anyone would expect Osweiler to catch “lightning in a bottle” for the rest of the season and play up to the performance that his contract would suggest.  Still, a win against a very good Oakland team in a neutral site road game in Mexico might give the team enough confidence to believe it can beat anyone when January rolls around.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.