Dallas out of playoffs; Texans not far behind
The task facing both the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys going into the final game of the regular season Sunday was a fairly simple one—just win the football game and good things will happen for your team.
Both the Texans and the Cowboys were on the road facing their respective division rival and nemesis. Houston was at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis to play the Colts while the Cowboys were playing the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, MD.
There were no stipulations about scoring by a certain number of points more than the opponent or anything like that, just win the final football game.
Indianapolis could not improve their position in the playoff seeding which would lead most head coaches to rest several of the impact players so they would be fresh and healthy for the start of the playoffs this weekend.
It was an entirely different scenario for the Houston Texans, who had been the top team in the American Football Conference throughout the second half of the season.
All the Texans needed to do was win two of the final four games and they would have a bye in the first round of the playoffs plus the home field advantage throughout the entire playoffs until the Super Bowl—if they were fortunate enough to get there.
But the month of December was not kind to the Houston Texans. In fact the only victory they posted during the final four weeks was a 29-17 win against these same Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 16. And during that time—including Sunday—Houston scored only three touchdowns.
However, the big bugaboo was the fact the Texans had NEVER defeated the Colts in 11 tries at Indianapolis. Of course Houston beating Indianapolis wasn’t expected when Peyton Manning was directing the Colts offense, who played his last game in an Indianapolis uniform exactly two years ago.
The Texans even had a safety valve—if they lost in Indianapolis and both Denver and New England also lost, they still would be the AFC’s top seed and get the bye and the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
But when word got out that the Texans lost 28-16 to Indianapolis, both the Broncos and Patriots suited up the impact players they had planned on resting and went after their respective opponents with renewed vigor and both won handily. Now Denver is the No. 1 seed and New England is No. 2. Both have byes this weekend.
That’s not the status of the Houston Texans, though. They are still the top seed, but for this weekend’s Wild Card Playoff, and get to play the No. 6-seeded Cincinnati Bengals—the same outfit they defeated 31-10 in this round last season—at Reliant Stadium Saturday in a 3 p.m. kickoff.
Unlike the Texans, the Bengals have won seven of their last eight games and are hotter than the firecrackers that were bringing in the New Year Monday night.
The Dallas-Washington finale had different implications than the Houston-Indianapolis match-up. This was a “to the victor goes the spoils” scenario. The winner is the NFC East Division champion and the loser goes home dragging their tails behind them.
And as in most of the previous do-or-die games involving Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, the erratic signal-caller made a fatal mistake in the late going to insure that the Cowboys would not bee able to pull out a victory and proceed to the NFL playoffs.
Romo, in his infinite wisdom, floated a screen pass toward running back De Marco Murray that any Pop Warner player could have intercepted. Washington took the football and drove for the decisive touchdown to secure the victory 28-18 and the right to host the Seattle Seahawks.
Besides denying his teammates the extra playoff money, Romo also took away the chance for the friends and family of Seattle’s all-pro free safety Earl Thomas an opportunity to see him play in person at Jerry Jones’ Palace in Arlington. They will have to settle for watching him play in Landover, MD. on TV like the rest of us. Earl’s Seahawks are favored by three points.
Actually, if one were to analyze the Texans loss to Indianapolis objectively, it would have to be pointed out that only two plays by the Colts spelled the difference in the game’s outcome—Deji Karim’s 101-yard kickoff return in which nary a Texan’s hand touched the Colt swifty, and the 70-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andrew Luck to T.Y, Hilton.
Houston’s stellar wide receiver Andre Johnson became only the second player in NFL history to have three seasons of at least 100 catches and 1,500 yards. That’s quite an accomplishment, joining Marvin Harrison in that elite category.
And like in 14 of the Texans’ 16 games this season, Houston is favored over the Bengals by four points. It would be very difficult not to take Cincinnati and the points based on the way the Texans have played during the month of December.
And to quote Texans defensive back Johnathan Joseph who looks at his team’s situation very philosophically, “We’re still playing this week. There are 12 teams in the playoffs and 20 sitting home watching.”
KWICKIES…Houston native and Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck threw for 4,374 yards this season, the most ever by a rookie quarterback. He broke the mark of 4,051 yards set by Cam Newton. And just to keep things in perspective, Luck’s dad, Oliver Luck, who is now the athletic director at West Virginia University, had 2,544 yards during his FOUR seasons with the Houston Oilers.
Last year when the Houston Texans played Cincinnati in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, they emerged with an easy 31-10 victory over the Bengals. Arian Foster had a big day, running for 153 yards while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. But things promise to be much different Saturday afternoon as the Bengals have quietly emerged as one of the NFL’s best defensive teams. They had a run of six games in a row in which they allowed fewer than 300 yards. The Bengals have given up more than 20 points just once during their 7-1 closing run which earned them a playoff berth. They forced eight turnovers against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
The Houston Texans’ home and road schedule for 2013 has been released. According to the NFL Record and Fact book, Houston will face Denver, Oakland, St. Louis, Seattle, New England, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Jacksonville at Reliant Stadium. They will travel to Kansas City, San Diego, Arizona, San Francisco, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Jacksonville.
If you had to guess which college basketball coach authored a forthcoming book from the title alone “The Power of Negative Thinking” you wouldn’t have to guess past the father of the current Lamar head basketball coach to come up with Bobby Knight, the second winningest basketball coach in NCAA history. He served as head coach at Indiana for 29 years and ended his career at Texas Tech with a surprise mid-season retirement in 2008. He mentored the winningest coach in college basketball—Mike Krzyzewski at Duke—who played for Knight from 1966-69 at West Point. The book is due to be released March 5 from Amazon Publishing/New Harvest.
Schools in the Lone Star State are 5-1 in bowl games so far with just Friday’s Cotton Bowl game between Texas A&M and Oklahoma remaining. Bowl winners include SMU (Hawaii Bowl), Baylor (Holiday Bowl), Texas Tech (Meineke Bowl), Rice (Armed Forces Bowl) and Texas (Alamo Bowl). TCU was the only loser 17-16 on a field goal by Michigan State in the final minute of play in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
JUST BETWEEN US…The Las Vegas Boys just released the early lines on the four Wild Card games for this weekend. As we said earlier Houston is favored over Cincinnati by four points and the Seattle Seahawks are a three-point favorite over the Washington Redskins. The Green Bay Packers are a whopping 7 1/2-point favorite over the Minnesota Vikings and the Baltimore Ravens are favored by 6 ½ points over Indianapolis.