Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 10/31/11
The Houston Texans are 5-3, sit in first place in the AFC South and have beaten all three of their division rivals by an average margin of nearly 24 points. So why does it feel like something terrible is about to happen? Texans fans have an acute ability to expect the worst. This is mostly because their pessimism keeps getting rewarded with correctness. The beloved Oilers left town, the Texans have never made the playoffs and even in this promising year, the team's best defensive player has been lost for the year. You get the impression people are just waiting for Matt Schaub to suddenly leave football to pursue a rap career. This cynicism is hardly unique to Houston. The feeling of impending doom is as universal for sports fans as the unsatisfying ratio of nacho cheese to nacho chips. Texans fans aren't the most tortured in professional sports, but there is a feeling that's only because they haven't been around long enough. And yet, look at this team. It combines the NFL's No. 6 offense and No. 3 defense. Only eight teams have more sacks, only three have more rushing yards and only five have allowed fewer. The Texans run it and they stop the run. They pressure the quarterback, and their quarterback doesn't make mistakes. The Houston Texans do everything you supposedly have to do in order to get to the playoffs, and win within them. But it seems like they have been here before. The Texans were 5-3 in 2009, having just beaten the Buffalo Bills 31-10, setting up a game against the Indianapolis Colts that people, including Texans radio play-by-play man Marc Vandermeer, were saying was the biggest game in franchise history. Houston lost four consecutive games, all against divisional opponents. The Texans won their last four, but it was too late. At 9-7, they finished second in the division, lost a tiebreaker and missed the playoffs. Momentum died, they went 6-10 last season and here they are, in first place and staring their own past in the face. Half of Houston's remaining eight games are against teams with winning records, the biggest test perhaps being a Dec. 11 game against the Bengals (5-2) in Cincinnati. The Texans are expecting to get Andre Johnson back as soon as this weekend. The star receiver has missed the last four games with a hamstring injury. The Texans were 3-1 with him and have gone 2-2 since, averaging just 17 points in the first two games without Johnson. Johnson's return will give the Texans a downfield playmaker they don't have otherwise, and just in time for a playoff push. So while the Texans aren't exactly riding a parade float into the playoffs, things are looking up. But until they actually do it, until they don't blow it, they will peer into that mysterious fog of doom, and have to decide how they perceive themselves. Are they who they have been, or are they the kinds of guys who finish? And how do you know until you've done it?
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