Pregame ceremonies were held at NRG Stadium in Houston and venues across the National Football League on Sunday in remembrance of 41st President George H. W. Bush, a longtime Texas resident and avid sports fan who passed away late Friday night at the age of 94.
On the field, the Texans did not disappoint. They secured their ninth straight victory after an 0-3 start to the regular season with a decisive 29-13 win over Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns.
Houston’s vaunted defense gave Mayfield fits all afternoon and intercepted the rookie three times, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Zach Cunningham. They also recovered a fumble for a total of four takeaways.
The defensive dominance along with a Deshaun Watson touchdown pass early allowed the Texans to build an insurmountable 23-0 lead at halftime. Running back Lamar Miller posted another impressive performance with over 100 yards on the ground to help run out the clock. DeAndre Hopkins hauled in seven of his 12 targets from Watson for a total of 91 yards.
If it was not already time to assume victory in the AFC South and start focusing on playoff seeding, it certainly is now. The surging Indianapolis Colts crashed hard on Sunday with a 6-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, which evened things out beneath the Texans in the division fight.
Houston also gained a game on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seeding conversation when they cratered late Sunday night and lost at home to the LA Chargers. They seem to have a solid handle on the AFC’s three seed and are tied with the second-ranked New England Patriots at 9-3. The problem is that the Texans would have to finish with a better record than New England since they lost in Foxboro on opening day.
While not impossible, a bye seems a tad unlikely for Houston unless the Patriots or the top-ranked Kansas City Chiefs regress in the final month. But when you consider where this team was in September, a 9-3 mark and a home playoff game is nothing short of astounding.
Those Chiefs picked up an easy win on Sunday over the lowly Raiders despite a potential season-altering announcement over the weekend. Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt was released from the team after a video surfaced of the 23-year old shoving and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel hallway back in February. Hunt was not the only man involved in the incident, but his recorded actions were disturbing, unacceptable and downright moronic.
There are a number of further details that I will not touch on, such as who knew about the video, when they knew about it and for how long. All I will say is that Hunt lied about his involvement before it was made available. Also, the news comes a week after Washington brought in linebacker Reuben Foster, who has been at the center of more than one domestic violence disputes, one of which came recently when he was a member of the 49ers.
We will try and focus on the football side of things: Hunt made Kansas City’s high-powered offense extremely versatile and dynamic. His absence could play a major role in their playoff seeding as the Patriots and Texans are right on their tale. New England, who defeated the Chiefs earlier in the year, has the best chance of overtaking the top spot in the AFC if the Chiefs falter.
Meanwhile in Dallas, the Cowboys shocked football fans across the country with a 13-10 victory over the scorching New Orleans Saints on Thursday in Arlington. The Dallas defense showed that they alone are capable of winning a weak NFC East and should enable them to compete with just about anybody.
Still, outside of Ezekiel Elliot, the offense is still an average unit in my opinion. Dak Prescott looked very effective in the first half on Thursday, posting 13 points, but they hit a wall from there and had to rely on their defense to hold on and earn the upset.
Washington and Philadelphia went to head-to-head on Monday in a crucial NFC East matchup. The winner of that game should prove to be the biggest challenge to Dallas for the division throughout the remainder of the season.
The Green Bay Packers were responsible for two of the week’s biggest surprises on Sunday. The first was a 20-17 loss to the nine-loss Arizona Cardinals at home and the next came immediately following the game.
Longtime Packer head coach Mike McCarthy was officially relieved of his duties after what appears will be the team’s second straight losing season. McCarthy took the Packers to the postseason nine times in 12 years and led them to a Super Bowl 45 victory in Dallas at the conclusion of the 2010 season.
At first glance, this is not a fireable resume. However, he has boasted one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers and hardly has anything to show for it in eight years. Despite his elite stats, Rodgers should also be mentioned in their inability to reach another Super Bowl of late. However, it is not as if you can get rid of Rodgers, so the blame falls to the head coach.
There has been a lot of frustration in Wisconsin for a long time because of their postseason shortcomings. For the better part of eight years, the Packers had free reign over a struggling NFC North and usually had an easy route to the playoffs. But they were never able to keep winning when it counted. Now, with Rodgers sitting at 35 years of age, Green Bay has seen the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears completely lap them in terms of talent in the North.