Houston jumps New England


Week 15 could not have gone better for the Houston Texans, who moved into the AFC’s two seed with a win over the Jets in New York on Saturday night.

Houston dodged a bullet in New York and were able to come up with 10 points in final few minutes of the game. The win puts them at 10-4 on the season, one game ahead of the 9-5 New England Patriots, who lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Deshaun Watson threw for just a touch under 300 yards and found DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone twice for two scores. Hopkins was also responsible for 170 of Watson’s yards through the air and hauled in 10 of 11 targets.

The Texans had trouble running the ball against a strong Jets defense but made the plays they needed to make. Ka’imi Fairbairn converted all five of his field goal attempts on the night as Houston struggled to finish their drives.

The Texans will finish up the regular season in Philadelphia and at home against the Jaguars and can clinch the AFC South with one more win or losses from Indianapolis and Tennessee. They now control their own seeding destiny and will earn a bye as long as they stay a game ahead of the Patriots.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, dropped their first game since Nov. 5 and it was not even close. The Colts kept their playoff hopes alive by brushing aside Dallas 23-0 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Dallas had their opportunities to put points on the board, especially early, but were plagued by miscues along the way and quickly fell behind when the Colts blocked a field goal attempt early. Dak Prescott threw for 200 yards and Ezekiel Elliot added another 90, but they could never finish a drive. The Cowboys surrendered 140 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns to Marlon Mack in the loss.

The Cowboys are still in favorable shape to win the NFC East barring a complete meltdown, but Sunday’s loss seemed to ensure that they cannot do better than the 4 seed in the NFC Playoffs.

With Nick Foles back at the quarterback position in Philadelphia due to another Carson Wentz injury, the Eagles kept their season alive with a shocking upset over the Rams in Los Angeles. They were able to build a substantial lead in the third quarter and take advantage of some LA miscues to hold off a late comeback push.

It is still an outside shot, but Philly could find a way into the postseason if they win out and a couple things go their way. Washington also kept their hopes alive with a last-second win over Jacksonville. Both trail the Minnesota Vikings by half a game in the race for the final wildcard. A Seattle Seahawks upset loss in San Francisco also shakes up the wildcard race.

Three divisions in the NFC are now decided for good. The Chicago Bears secured the North title for the first time since 2010 with a win over the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field, their tenth win of the season. The have an outside shot at one of the top two slots in the NFC Playoffs and a bye, but will likely be the three seed.

New England’s fifth loss is the most the team has suffered in a single regular season since they went 10-6 in 2009. The 17-10 loss marked the third time they were held to 10 points this year. They will still be a serious threat in the AFC Playoffs, but the engine behind the game’s greatest dynasty finally seems to be running out of steam. They will finish the regular season with home matchups against the Bills and Jets and can still earn a bye with two wins a Texans loss.

The Steelers were Sunday’s biggest winners. A win over New England helped them maintain their slim lead over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. A loss, meanwhile, would have knocked them out of the playoffs altogether and given Indianapolis the six and final seed for the time being. The win was an even bigger deal when you consider that the Steelers have to travel to New Orleans to battle the Saints in the Superdome in Week 16.