The Houston Texans entered Sunday’s game with the Minnesota Vikings needing one win in their last two games to clinch the #1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Not only did they fail to do so in an ugly 23-6 loss to Minnesota, but the offense played their worst game in the Gary Kubiak era. Houston picked a bad time to not score a touchdown in a game for the first time in six years. You have to go all the way back to 2006, Kubiak’s first season, to find a game where the Texans failed to get in the end zone.
It was that bad for the Texans offense, who came into the game ranked sixth in the league in total offense. That unit was shut down by the Vikings defense. An inability to run the ball doomed Houston from the start. Arian Foster had nowhere to run, and finished with a season low 15 yards on 10 carries, as the Vikings defense dominated the line of scrimmage. The Texans offensive line played their worst game of the season, as they couldn’t open any holes and Matt Schaub was under duress all day.
In a sequence that was fitting on the day, the Texans had a 1st and goal at the one and couldn’t get a single yard. It was painful to watch as the Vikings, playing for their playoff lives, looked like an urgent team while the Texans looked as if their minds were elsewhere. You couldn’t tell from their performance that they had a chance to wrap up home-field advantage in the AFC. It was the second consecutive season that it appeared complacency kicked in for Houston the week after clinching the division title.
Last season, following a win that clinched the AFC South, the Texans were upset at home 28-13 by the Carolina Panthers. It was deja-vu all over again Sunday, as they followed last week’s division clincher against the Indianapolis Colts with another thud. As it is, the Texans head into a critical week 17 rematch with the Colts with plenty of big stakes on the line. Had they taken care of business Sunday, they could have sewed everything up and rested next week.
Now the Texans need to win in Indianapolis for the first time ever. Not only would a loss cost them the AFC’s top seed and home-field throughout, it could also potentially drop them to the #3 spot and cost them a first round bye as well. Both the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots face inferior opponents at home in week 17, so the Texans should not count on either one of them to lose. Since they control their own destiny, they don’t have to. The scenario is simple, beat the Colts and Houston is the #1 seed and the AFC’s road to New Orleans will come through Reliant Stadium. Lose, and they will get only one home playoff game and it is highly likely that it would be on wild card weekend, as they might kiss the first round bye good-bye.
The first scenario is much more inviting, although if the offense plays again the way that they played Sunday, it doesn’t matter where they play. A repeat of that performance will lead to a brief post-season stay. The Texans had a chance to wrap the present of home-field advantage Sunday and failed. Now, week 17 is of utmost importance if they plan on waking up feeling better on New Years Eve than they did on Christmas Eve.